An adaptation of Posy Simmonds graphic novel, which in turn was a reimagining of Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Gemma Bovery is an occasionally engaging but ultimately forgettable drama.
harlie Bovery (Flemyng) burns his wife Gemma’s (Arterton) personal belongings in the front garden. Neighbour and local baker Martin Joubert (Luchini) scoots across the road to see if all is okay and, when Charlie’s back is turned, slips Gemma’s diaries into his coat. Martin has been in love with Gemma ever since she and Charlie moved to Normandy from London - not just because of her beauty but because the Flaubert-loving fantasist believes that it’s more than just a coincidence that a Bovery/Bovary would move to Normandy, the area Flaubert completed his famous work.
artin skims through the woman’s personal thoughts, his fascination turns to jealousy when the bored Gemma has an affair with a local student Herve (Schneider) and, later, fears that she is following the tragic Madame Bovary’s life all too closely.
irector Anne Fontaine works hard to ensure that Arterton is fully deserving of the adoration afforded her by four men here - her ex (Mel Raido) shows up later – but it’s all surface. Despite the story being culled from Gemma’s diaries she remains a stranger at the end credits. We, like Martin, only know her from afar. Fontaine overcooks her sexuality somewhat too: Luchini stares slack jawed as she sensually eats the bread he has cooked, and later nearly reaches orgasm when he sucks a bee sting from her back. Mixing this tragedy with farce, Gemma Bovery struggles for tone. The ending too borders on the ridiculous.
he darker turn from Fabrice Luchini is a welcome one, stepping away from the humorous sad sack characters he’s known for, but more could have been made of this baker’s flights of fancy. Luchini here creeps about houses and peeps in windows; he spits disgust when he observes Gemma and Herve flirt; there’s anger and frustration bubbling under the skin when he engages other English expats in a heated discussion over dinner. But nothing ever comes of it. There’s never any danger to him and that’s an edge the story is missing.
lways toying with a murkier story, Gemma Bovery’s refusal to go over to the dark side proves its undoing.