Imogène McCarthery

Imogène McCartherySynopsis: Scottish-born Imogène McCarthery is working as the Secretary to the Admiralty in London, where she lives and pines for her native land. To her surprise and delight, she is selected for a top-secret mission delivering blueprints to her hometown, as her disarming appearance is unlikely to arouse suspicion. But when she returns to Scotland, plans begin to go awry as Imogène comes face to face with Bolshevik agents and realizes she may be in over her head.  

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Imogène McCarthery 8.0

eyelights: Catherine Frot. the picture’s playful nature. its female empowerment angle.
eyesores: the quick pace of the last act.

‘Imogène McCarthery’ is a 2010 French film based on a series of seven books by Charles Exbrayat, a prolific and reputed crime novelist. Starring Catherine Frot as the titular heroine, the film is based on Exbrayat’s first book of the series, ‘Ne vous fâchez pas, Imogène!’

Set in 1962, the plot is simple: Imogène is a proud Scot who works as a typist for the British Intelligence Department. One day, after ruffling everyone’s feathers, she is hand-picked by the department head, Sir Woolish, to go on a mission: delivering secret plans to Sir Wardlaw in Falkland, Fife.

She is thrilled – not just to have this chance to prove her worth once and for all, but also because it coincidentally takes her back to her home town. Naturally, not all goes according to plan, and she soon finds herself with the predicament of tracking down some secret Russian agents.

I quite enjoyed the character because she’s a strong-willed woman who doesn’t take crap, she dishes it out – she always has a biting comeback for anyone who brushes her the wrong way. And she’s her own person, being extremely independent. Given the period in which this is set, she stands out.

However, she is a veritably flawed personage who is biased by her patriotism. And yet she takes the assignment very seriously, always looking over her shoulder, seeing spies everywhere – except in the most obvious places. But she is more capable than you’d imagine, felling much stronger adversaries.

What I found interesting is that McCarthery is a vibrant middle-aged woman who would likely be cast twenty years younger in Hollywood. But she’s great as is, and Catherine Frot (who was of comparable age at the time) is brilliant in the part. She proves that there are great parts for actresses.

I’d almost go so far as to say that Imogène McCarthery is a feminist character. Almost. Contextually-speaking, she is. But what bothered me was the revelation that she had help from a man along the way; it weakened her achievements. Thankfully, she did most of the legwork herself.

But, beyond the character herself, who is a lot of fun, the picture itself is a blast. It was all played up for chuckles, with incessant winks at the audience. For example, the villains are predictable, but we know and Imogène doesn’t. She also keeps falling into all sorts of traps, but always finds a way out.

The biggest wink at the audience comes at the very end in this terrific, feel-good montage that even included a mild musical number. It very much embodied the carefree ways that Imogène leads her life: she is true to herself and she is all the happier for it. And so are we.

My only issue with the picture is that the last bit felt slightly rushed. It made me wonder if the picture was edited for North American audiences (at 80 minutes in length, including credits, you can’t help but scratch your head). But, from what I can tell, it was conceived that way. Unusual.

Otherwise, I rather enjoyed ‘Imogène McCarthery’, and I wish that more of her adventures were brought to the screen. But only if Catherine Frot stars in them: she sunk her teeth into this part with relish and is absolutely perfect for it (even if it’s typecasting after the Beresford pictures).

I can assure you that I will watch this one again. It’s just plain fun.

Date of viewing: November 18, 2014

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