January is turning out to be a great month for fans of frocks and frills. Together with Dangerous Liaisons and Tulip Fever, we’re treating you to three saucy period pieces (of varying quality and tone) in one month alone.
Set in the early 1800’s, Jean Dujardin plays the outrageously mustachioed Captain Charles-Grégoire Neuville. He proposes marriage to Pauline (Noémie Merlant), but is then called away to the wars. Pauline pines away as the Captain doesn’t write, so her sister Elisabeth (Mélanie Laurent) forges ardent letters from the Captain, full of romance and heroism, to save Pauline from wasting away in melancholy.
Neuville arrives back in town alive and well, although he’s turned into a drunken lout and looking for a way to cash in on his engagement. He finds she’s married a nobleman so he crashes the family estate, boasting about his exploits, with only Elisabeth aware that he’s a con artist. But he’s onto her as well, and the rest of film consists of one long cat-and-mouse game. Return to the Hero is a frothy confection that sits somewhere between Jane Austen and a French bedroom farce. (Jack Whiting)