An old saying goes: “You can’t make a million dollars honestly.” It often seems to be true. There is an endless supply of stories about greed gone out of control in the upper echelons of the corporate world, and it’s not hard to understand why: When entire careers and millions of units of your favourite currency are at stake, it becomes frighteningly easy for some people to set aside all moral considerations, including such paltry concerns as honesty, integrity and friendship. Indeed, one sometimes wonder how the corporate sector can function at all, being so rife with greed-driven and self-serving psychopath executives. One can hazard several conspiratorial guesses: Maybe the psychos are so cunning that they can make things work relatively smoothly most of the time. Maybe many of the big league corporations are all in it together; have a common understanding of how “to play the game” according to their own rules. Or, on the other hand, maybe there are a great many honest people in business as well, and the psychos are just the exceptions to the rule. Who knows? I sure don’t.
But according to popular entertainment, business people are almost always bad guys. And we have all seen enough headlines about that significant percentage of manipulative control-freak bosses who are clinical psychopaths. Naturally, this theme finds its way into fiction, too. In Love Crime, we follow two competing female executives on the vice president level. The younger one, Isabella (Ludivine Sagnier), starts out as an assistant to the older one, Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), and Christine is a beautiful example of the psycho executive. While pretending to be very friendly and insisting that they open up to each other, Christine ultimately ends up harrassing Isabella in the extreme, using everything she can against her. She steals Isabella’s ideas, and sends her into the arms of an ex-lover that she is in complete control of, thus setting up a situation where she can manipulate and humiliate Isabella so as to keep her in her place. Christine ends up using ever bit of leverage she can, because Isabella is so good at her job that she cost Christine an important promotion.
Emotionally ruined, Isabella decides to bestow the ultimate pay-back on Christine. And by this time the viewer has certainly already thought of the only effective punishment for a horrible person who might never stop stalking you: death. So Isabella puts all of her considerable intelligence to work in order to try and get away with murder.
As is amply demonstrated in this movie, the corporate environment is not a place where a great many positive human values can thrive; it is a dog-eat-dog arena where everyone has sharp elbows. Personally I’ve never understood how anyone can stand such a place. As Lily Tomlin once said, “The problem with the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Even if you rebel against your psycho boss, buck the trend and try to succeed in a different way, you are still part of a certain system; a certain corporate culture. So even if Isabella gets rid of Christine, won’t she simply just have become Christine? Well – that, as they say, is the way the cookie crumbles.
This corporate thriller has good substance; there is a lot of character interaction and portrayal going on from the second it begins. It has an effectively told and very well-acted story, many elements of which ring true. There are also several surprises along the way. Ludivine Sagnier continues to be one of the freshest flowers of French cinema, and Kristin Scott Thomas continues to be good at playing cold and manipulative.
Love Crime is out in cinemas in the UK on December 14.
Director: Alain Corneau
Cast: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Mille, Guillaume Marquet and others.
Runtime: 102 min