Something sumptuous

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 08:42 27/01/2014
the gilded cage

FAMILY TIES: The cast of The Gilded Cage.

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THE GILDED CAGE

Directed by Ruben Alves
90 min

Do some people live to serve? Director Ruben Alves' French-Portugese farce The Gilded Cage seems to think so - but it suggests those people deserve to be rewarded for it.

The film focuses on a Portuguese couple, who have lived in France for more than 30 years. Maria Ribeiro (Rita Blanco) works as a concierge in an opulent residential villa in Paris, while her husband, Jos (Joaquim De Almeida) is a hard-working foreman for a local construction company.

They live modestly with their adult daughter, Paula (Barbara Cabrita) and teenage son, Pedro (Alex Alves Pereira) in the ground-floor apartment of the complex.

Yet as soon as Jose discovers he's inherited the family estate in Portugal, the community goes out of its way to stop them leaving. Suddenly, they're "indispensable". It doesn't help that Paula is dating the son of Jose's boss.

The Gilded Cage moves its cast around like chess pieces, but everyone knows their roles exactly.

Blanco and De Almeida are a great fit - often harried, but undeniably affectionate - while Nicole Croisille (as the pretentious villa owner) and Roland Giraud (as Jose's demanding but gregarious boss) stray just on the right side of caricature.

Sure, it's occasionally silly - not least during a scene where Jose and Maria are overwhelmed during a "complimentary" stay at a luxury hotel. (Maria replaces the overly fussy meal with her more practical home-made cod). Yet it's also pointed in the way it deals with its class conflicts, particularly when Maria and Jose rebel against their bosses simply by neglecting all the tasks that their bosses take for granted. Alves clearly likes all his characters (even the bosses), and there is no anger in this film, just exasperation.

Moreover, it's fun to swim in luxurious surroundings for 90 minutes, and there are so many scenes featuring great food that I left the cinema feeling surprisingly hungry. Gorgeously shot, deftly written and well-acted, The Gilded Cage has something for everyone. I would happily live in this film - as long as I could afford the rent. A gem.

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