Read My Lips (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Original French title: Sur mes lèvres

Carla is a frumpy 30-something secretary in a construction company. Her career and private life are going nowhere. She's almost completely deaf. At work, people either ignore her or exploit her. At home, she has no love life, and her friends ask her to baby-sit on the spur of the moment, or ask if they can use her apartment for wild sex while she sits quietly in a cafe until they finish. She allows herself to be exploited without more than a peep of protest.

When her boss lets her hire an assistant, she inexplicably chooses a scruffy ex-con with no office skills. He is barely on society's edge. Unable to get any other job, homeless, without friends and family, and deeply in debt to baddies who don't believe prison settled his debts to them, his life is headed nowhere but down.

It isn't clear why Carla would hire such a man, but it made for a good movie premise ...

Amazingly enough, the two losers, who can't seem to deal with life when they are apart, form a symbiotic relationship which welds them into one personality which works well in both the construction business and crime! His tough-guy skills come in very handy for intimidating office bullies, and work even better on corrupt suppliers who hold up her projects waiting for kick-backs. On the other hand, her lip-reading skills are indispensable for planning criminal activities.


Emmanuelle Devos does lower frontal nudity twice, very briefly, in poor light, with her head out of the frame. (It may be a double)
There are no lovable characters. Carla is truculent, pathetic, and anti-social. The con is a sleazeball. The fact that their interaction isn't predictable makes things more intriguing as they lead up to their big score, and possibly a romantic involvement as well. If it were an American movie, we would know full well that the frumpy goody-two-shoes secretary (Sandra Bullock?) would stop short of criminal mayhem, and the unkempt sleazeball (Mickey Rourke?) would eventually reform. But this is a quirky, amoral French premise, and not an American formula. It is never quite clear just how far Carla will venture toward the dark side.

It is a slow, patient, offbeat, amoral character study which focuses on the interaction of two people who together are far more than the sum of their two parts. It's kind of an odd movie in that the first half is kind of a comedy/drama which takes place mostly in the office, while the second half is a bloody and tense caper film. Overall, it is neither, but rather an interesting dual character study of the interaction between two people who make each other complete.

The critics absolutely adored it. It garnered 96% good reviews, and James Berardinelli picked in in his annual Top 10.  It was nominated for nine Cesars (French Academy Awards), including Best Picture. Emmanuelle Devos shocked France and the world by winning the Best Actress Cesar over Audrey Tatou in Amelie.

DVD info from Amazon

  • anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features

I can see why people like it so much, but I didn't really share in the mass enthusiasm. The movie simply didn't bring me the pleasure that it brought most people, and I was mystified that the critics seem to have overlooked its flaws. It has a sub-plot with the con's parole officer, for example, which is confusing, slows the pace, and is completely supererogatory.

I think it was a good movie, but I'm at a loss to understand why it met with such universal critical acclaim. The 7.3 at IMDB pegs it about right: solid, creative, but not at the masterpiece level.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4.

  • General UK consensus: three stars. Mail 8/10, Telegraph 8/10, Standard 8/10, Guardian 8/10,  Express 6/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • Box office: about a million dollars in arthouse distribution. It grossed about 3-4 million dollars in France.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. Top-notch filmmaking for a targeted aficionado audience.

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