Nobody Else But You
Mysteriously, sadly, like Marilyn
What if Marilyn Monroe had never made it out of the sticks? That oddly inspired notion is explored in “Nobody Else But You,” a playful French meta-mystery that’s occasionally too proud of its own cleverness.
The sticks in this case is Mouthe, a backwater in the Franche-Comté region on the snowy Swiss border. David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve), a successful but burned-out mystery novelist, arrives in town to claim an inheritance but gets hooked by the enigmatic death of Candice Lecouer (Sophie Quinton), a local beauty queen, cheese spokeswoman, and TV weathergirl. The closest thing the area has to a celebrity, Candice has been found in a frozen field clutching a bottle of sleeping pills. Murder? Possibly. The plot of David’s next book? Definitely.
Archly directed by Gérald Hustache-Mathieu (who co-wrote the script with Juliette Sales), “Nobody Else But You” sends its opportunistic hero off to play detective and eventually compare notes with Bruno (Guillaume Gouix), an earnest young policeman who smells a similar rat. What they don’t notice at first — but what any viewer reasonably well-acquainted with Monroe’s biography will tumble to — is that Candice’s life story seems awfully familiar.
A mousy brunette born Martine Langevin, she reinvented herself as a bodacious blonde after being scouted by a photographer at her family’s gas station. There’s a nude calendar shoot (with the local fire department, likewise buck-naked) followed by marriages to a regional soccer star (Lyès Salem) and an intellectual book critic (Eric Ruf, looking suitably Arthur Miller-esque). Eventually, our sleuths learn of Candice’s affair with the dreamboat regional president, Jean-François Burdeau — or JFB (Ken Samuels) — and entanglement with his prefect brother (Antoine Chappey), whose initials are BOB.
This could easily turn glib and every so often does, but “Nobody Else But You” (a title that actually makes as much sense as the original French “Poupoupidou”) keeps things humming with a wicked wit, updated suspense cliches like severed car brakes on an icy road, and resorts to Candice’s diaries, which play out in flashback. Eventually, David has to admit that the dead woman’s a better writer than he is and that, in a sense, she’s his collaborator.
Quinton is good company in the role, letting us glimpse Martine’s adolescent banality beneath Candice’s sex-bomb surface. Fringe benefits include a performance by Arsinée Kanjian (director Atom Egoyan’s wife and muse) as a dour psychiatrist and the amusingly casual revelation of Bruno’s sexuality. And what’s with the number 5 that keeps cropping up in the film’s wintry mise-en-scène? By the time the mystery is satisfyingly resolved — it suggests that life creates darker conspiracies than humans do — the digit has come to seem like a secret clue from the filmmaker to us.
There are moments when “Nobody Else But You” brushes up against themes of identity and reinvention, of how the people we want to be can betray the people we are. There’s a sadness in the far background of this movie that helps anchor its sometimes manic invention. Candice Lecouer, it turns out, just wanted to be loved by us, by us and nobody else but us. And she ended up alone, pou-poupidou.
Ty Burr can be reached at tburr