A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Here is the most popular film in France right now, about an unpleasant old lady who sits up at night thinking about ways to make life difficult for those who love her. She manipulates them with guilt, she deceives them with lies, she appeals to them with piteous tears, and she walks on their flower beds. What a crone.
And yet Etienne Chatiliez’s "Tatie Danielle" plays, perversely, as a comedy: as a two-edged movie about human nature. So often when we speak of movie characters as being "human," we mean that they are nice. We forget that being human can also involve being nasty, vindictive, greedy and scheming. Tatie Danielle is a spoiled old lady who has become expert, after long years of study, at the art of imposing on other people.
She is, above all, an actress. When we first meet her she is already practicing her art. She says one thing in private and another in public. She seeks pity for herself. She makes life miserable for her overworked, exhausted and equally elderly servant, who eventually falls off a ladder while trying to please her. The servant dies, and Tatie Danielle goes to live with a middle-aged nephew, his wife and their family, in the city. They don't really want her. But she buys her way in by giving them some of her substantial wealth, and then, once she is established in her own room, she terrorizes the household.
She can't eat the food. The noise is too much for her. She invades all of their social events, entrancing the guests with manufactured stories of her sufferings. She drives away the servants.