Review: 'Footnotes', a Toe-Tapping Whimsical French Musical

 The premise of Footnotes is a little wacky: it’s a French musical about Julie (Pauline Étienne) who has been working a series of jobs in the hopes of securing a full-time position during a recession that has led to lay-offs all around town. She finds a promising position at a luxury shoe factory… that is about to be “upgraded”, aka downsized. Before she knows it, the stable job she has been working so hard to find, and her budding romance with Samy (Olivier Chantreau), is in danger as her coworkers protest against their boss, Xavier Laurent (Loïc Corbery) and his closing of the factory. 

As soon as the first musical number plays, you get swept up in the fun of the movie. While each number of Footnotes was written by a different lyricist and composer, there is a decidedly whimsical, very French feel to the soundtrack. Each number is charming in its own way, with my favorite being Xavier Laurent’s “La bossa du big boss”, where he tries to schmooze his way onto the good side of the protesting female factory workers.  

While the movie was fun, it never pulled me in, and I’m not quite sure why. The songs were catchy enough, the characters charming enough, but the stakes somehow didn’t feel very real despite watching Julie struggle with her landlord and going from menial job to menial job. There was a turning point where the factory workers rally around a vintage shoe design, the L’Insoumise (“The Rebel”), that really injected some much-needed energy into the film.  

The romantic subplot of the film, while cute as it blossomed, developed strangely, as Julie, who previously kept her head down with the protest moment to protect her job, suddenly became angry with Samy for…. doing just that. But then, even after rebuffing Samy’s apology, the movie ended with Julie walking away from the permanent contract she had been chasing since the start of the movie to be with him. On paper, this is a nice resolution, but it didn’t make sense after watching Julie reject Samy’s attempts to reconcile.

Still, despite the places where the story fell flat and some odd choreography choices, I was still smiling at the movie throughout. I only wish the English subtitles captured the nuance of the French better, as I found myself really grateful for my high school French education. This is a cute and fun musical that hopefully will leave you smiling, too.

Rating: 3 out of 5