Muscular action scenes carried by heroines with whom it is possible to identify: Mélanie Laurent returns to directing with Voleuses, on Netflix from Wednesday. The feature film brings together a five-star cast: Mélanie Laurent, Isabelle Adjani, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Philippe Katerine, Félix Moati and Manon Bresch. This project was born from the director's “love” for action films, and her “frustration” at never seeing everyday women play their heroines.
To make her dream come true, Mélanie Laurent draws on comics by adapting La Grande Odalisque by Jérôme Mulot, Florent Ruppert and Bastien Vivès, itself inspired by the cult animated series of the 80s, Cat's Eyes. The film follows the tribulations of Carole and Alex, inseparable high-flying burglars, respectively played by the director and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
To emancipate themselves from Marraine, their ruthless boss played by Isabelle Adjani, who seems to have subscribed to these merciless matron roles since Romain Gavras' Le monde est à toi, and to consider a calmer life, the girls embark on a ultimate heist, and recruit Sam en route, a racing driver played by Manon Bresch, a young actress known for her role as Thérèse in the series Plus belle la vie.
In this story punctuated with humorous scenes, the men all have secondary roles, but are “not excluded” for all that, adds Mélanie Laurent, who underlines their “particular and complex” character. Rather “on the periphery”, specifies Félix Moati, who plays an arms seller flirting with the sniper played, with visible jubilation, by Adèle Exarchopoulos.
The film aims to showcase a powerful femininity where “feminism” is “not the subject”. “It’s much broader than that, it’s a film about friendship,” argues Adèle Exarchopoulos, interviewed by AFP. In 2021, the director had already collaborated with a streaming platform with the adaptation of the successful novel Le bal des fous released on Prime Video. With Voleuses, co-produced by Gaumont, Netflix gave him carte blanche (and resources) for its production. “I think that cinema would never have had the idea of putting in the substantial budget so that we, in France, could have a film about women, action and comedy,” says Mélanie Laurent to AFP.
“All of a sudden, we are all over the world, it’s wonderful,” adds the director, who lived for several years in Los Angeles, in reference to the international impact of the American platform. Cigarette breaks, glasses of rosé... The director ensures that the film remains “very French” and features “French women of our generation”. A “French touch” accentuated by the geography of the settings: Paris, Le Mans, but especially Corsica (notably the Gulf of Saint-Florent) where the majority of the scenes are filmed. “Corsica is the Maldives, there are white sand beaches, sublime forests, rivers, it’s such a rich island. It would have been crazy to shoot elsewhere,” explains Mélanie Laurent, who botches the end of her film a bit. The only downside to the rather encouraging picture which represents women who have nothing to envy of men. In a word: powerful.