Opening 21 Dec 2023
British Andrew Blake (John Malkovich) mourns the death of his wife Diana. He decides to leave Great Britain and return to Castle Beauvillier in France, where he and Diana had met 40 years ago. Presently, the residents are Madame Nathalie Beauvilier (Fanny Ardant), who also mourns the death of her husband, as well as cook/housekeeper Odile (Émilie Dequenne). Odile assumes that Andrew is answering her ad for a butler—and why not. He jumps into the role, happy for an excuse to remain in the castle for free. The fourth person is young Manon (Eugénie Anselin), who also works as a housekeeper and attempts to hide her pregnancy, the result of an affair with boyfriend Justin. And then there is the gardener Magnier (Philippe Bas) who makes small houses to shelter porcupines. Each person relies on Andrew’s help and advice in various ways, until he falls from a ladder, lands in the hospital, and needs support himself.
Director Gilles Legardinier based the film on the French book Complètement cramé, which he wrote and published in 2012. The German title translates literally to “Mr. Blake at Your Service” and “service” is definitely Blake’s job, both as a butler, e.g., ironing newspapers for Madame Beauvillier, and as an advisor, supporting everyone, especially Manon. The film begins with “Andrew, for God’s sake pick up,” which is Andrew’s British friend Richard Ward on the phone. Richard eventually shows up, as does Andrew’s daughter Sarah and Melissa Berliner, a disloyal acquaintance of Nathalie. All actors are excellent, but my favorite was the cat Mephisto, who has a major role. The film allows us to experience actor John Malkovich, who seems to have grown older. He is successful in film, television, and theater, with his prior film being Velvet Buzzsaw in 2019. Monsieur Blake zu Diensten is a feel-good film about people coping with familiar problems, perfect to open in the cinema during the holiday season. (Becky Tan)