Movie review: ‘The Hedgehog’ treads lightly between prickly and elegant
The lowly hedgehog, as described in Muriel Barbery’s whimsical, best-selling novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” is a prickly creature that is “falsely lethargic, staunchly private and terribly elegant.”
The same can be said of freshman writer-director Mona Achache’s delicate and artfully restrained French-language adaptation of Barbery’s book. It’s a film that presents us with an odd trio of characters, two of whom are outwardly set, surly, and hedgehog-like in their demeanors but are gradually transformed by the elegant powers of art and friendship.
Set in a graceful, rambling, luxury apartment building in Paris, the gentle story charts the shifting, incremental relationships among three eccentric residents.
There’s 11-year-old Paloma (Garace Le Guillermic), a precocious blond child with an old soul who is disgusted with the hypocrisies of her parents’ bourgeois life and is determined to commit suicide on her 12th birthday. But, until then, she wields an all-seeing video camera that she uses to record the follies of the adults around her.
There’s 54-year-old Renee (Josiane Balasko), the building’s frumpy concierge-custodian who hides her keen intelligence and love for literature, art and music behind a gruff exterior. To the building’s upper-crust clientele she is “rarely amiable, but always polite” as she longs for evenings when she can retreat to her book-cluttered apartment a curl up with her cat and a good Russian novel.
And serving as a deft intermediary between these two unhappy iconoclasts is Mr. Ozu (Togo Igawa), a dignified, 60ish Japanese businessman and widower who has recently moved into the building and strikes up unlikely friendships with the morbidly curious girl and the jaundiced janitor.
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