By Jillian Harrington, Contributing Writer
The Hollywood musical may be one step closer to resurgence. “Footnotes” is a French film full of singing, dancing, high-heeled leather shoes, romance, economic insecurity–and not much else, but that’s okay.
The star, Julie (Pauline Etienne), is introduced as a young woman floating aimlessly in southeastern France, her only goal to land a job, regardless of what it is. She is seen talking to managers and enduring trial periods in a swirling scene that cuts from one job ad to the next. Then, her finger lands upon one: a store person in a high end heel factory with a potential permanent contract. Though she must go through yet another trial period before the job is officially hers, the opportunity ignites hope in Julie and inspires the first song in the musical.
The workforce at Jacques Couture, the shoe factory, is entirely female, feminine, strong and stubbornly proud of their product. However, almost immediately into Julie’s first day, conflict presents itself. The head of the company plans to outsource production to China, threatening unemployment for all the women, including Julie. Julie must then decide whether she wants to keep her head down and land a job that may be made irrelevant in a month’s time or to rally with her coworkers in protest.
“Footnotes” falters in that it never builds a true emotional connection with the audience, especially because Julie’s thought processes are difficult to discern. The film begins to feel rushed and introduces a romantic element to build the drama. When Julie’s love interest, truck driver Samy (Olivier Chantreau), is bought out by management, Julie truly joins the fight for the factory.
Though the ending may seem cliched and predictable, it is fitting. For much of “Footnotes,” Julie is preoccupied with getting a job. The audience learns her struggle is recent: her previous boyfriend leaving her suddenly and the bank turning its back on her. Julie is adrift, behind on her rent and living out of a single bag. Early on, Samy tells Julie his dreams of running away to the open road, and Julie retorts that she has no time for dreams. And yet, the movie ends with Julie not only discovering a dream, but chasing after it.
Directors Paul Calori and Kostia Testut succeed in their framing of scenes in both visually appealing and engaging ways. Dynamic shots follow characters in time with their motions, choreographing scenes even outside of musical numbers, inviting the audience into the world of picketing and tap dancing.
While “Footnotes” does not attempt to answer or pose any major questions, it is quirky and entertaining for the whole of its 85-minute run. The energy brought to the screen by the musical numbers is highly pleasing and the musical elements are compelling–the sounds of shoe-stitching and leather-polishing slowly crescendoing into a Rosie-the-Riveter-esque number. Particularly, the aspects of girl-power are the heart of the film, transforming a familiar plot into something more fresh.
“Footnotes” does not dive beneath the surface of its plot, but what “Footnotes” does, it does well.
“Footnotes” opens nationwide and on VOD on Tuesday, Sep. 19.