Netflix Star Power: From Nova to Galaxy
Just released on Netflix is the directorial debut of one Brie Larson, star of what will surely be one of the biggest film success-stories of 2019, Captain Marvel. Her Unicorn Store has ‘nova’ Hollywood star Brie playing the central character, and surprise of surprise, also stars Samuel L. Jackson. And if you’re not intimidated by subtitles, there are three glorious seasons of Call My Agent!, a French TV series that chronicles the successes and travails of a talent management agency; and playing themselves in cameos is an astounding galaxy of the Who’s-Who of French cinema of the last 50 years.
Unicorn Store was actually a project Larson worked on right after winning the Oscar for Best Actress for Room; and even with Jackson in the film, predates Captain Marvel. It was first screened in Toronto in 2017; and if it lures in a lot of viewers, chalk that up to uncanny timing and marketing by Netflix.
It’s an earnest, well-meaning film that has an arrested development, inner-child syndrome, central character - Kit, as played by Brie. The film has some problems with tonality, often too cute or mawkish for words; but it does have its heart in the right place. You just wished there was a bit more grit, or harder look at reality sequences - there’s the possibility of inter-racial romance, and potential sexual harassment in the office place, but both themes are never really explored.
Brie Larson plays Kit with chutzpah and charm in equal measures; but Samuel L. Jackson is basically coasting, without all that much to do besides play himself, in a silly get-up. It’s Mamoudou Athie as Virgil, the DIY Hardware Store assistant who you notice, as he basically accepts Kit, with all her social interacting deficiencies, and guileless approach to adulthood. Hamish Linklater as Gary, the VP of the PR firm where Kit temps, is the other stand-out. He oozes the right mix of sleazy and authoritative.
Isabelle Adjani, Juliette Binoche, Jean Dujardin, Monica Bellucci, Christophe Lambert, and Isabelle Huppert - these are just some of the luminaries of French Cinema who play themselves in farcical situations on the wonderful TV series Call My Agent! In France, it was called Dix pour cent (a reference to the 10% the talent agency earns). The series centers on life in the talent agency ASK, where things get sticky when the four main VP’s have to assume the baton when the Founder & CEO suddenly dies while on holiday.
And if you give the series a chance, you will love how the four VP’s will quickly be your best friends, as they deal with artists’ egos, crazy demands, the competition, and personal issues. My favorites would be Mathias (Thibault de Montalembert) and Andrea (Camille Cottin). The script sparkles with humor, with real-life situations that examine ethics, morals, and personality, and little dramas buttered with irony and compassion.
One moment I thoroughly enjoyed was during the first season, when one veteran actress/client of the firm was talking about her ‘rival’; and commented that she’s reached that age when the candles cost more than the cake! That’s how witty the bitchy remarks can get, as they fly fast and furious. Just like how The Office was originally a British TV series and was adapted to a US setting; don’t be surprised if Call My Agent! eventually gets the same kind of treatment. It’s that good. And I can imagine how all these French stars were wondering when they’d get a call to cameo in the series.
Photos from Netflix