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Thinking he has been cast in a Yiddish version of The Merchant of Venice, struggling Parisian actor Maurice tells his beloved wife Perla. But when the part goes to a famous American star, Maurice must play the role of his life to be sure Perla, who has become very ill, doesn't find out.
Director Steve Suissa delivers a bittersweet meditation on life with LE GRAND RÔLE. Set in Paris, Suissa's film follows the fortunes of struggling actor Maurice Kurtz (Stéphane Friess) whose Jewish origins just may be his ticket to a leading role in a Yiddish version of Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Being filmed in the city and helmed by internationally famous American director Rudolph Grishenberg (Peter Coyote), the film would represent a major break for Maurice if he were to land a part in it. Maurice spends most of his time clowning around with his wannabe thespian friends and secretly photographing his wife, Perla (Bérénice Bejo), whom he worships. But when Grishenberg offers Maurice the role of Shylock in his movie, the good news is tainted when he returns home to Perla who announces that she has cancer, and is soon to die. While grappling with this information, Maurice receives a further blow when he learns the part of Shylock is no longer his, and has instead been offered to a famous American actor. But Perla is deliriously happy to believe that Maurice is on the cusp of stardom, so he decides not to tell her that he's lost the part, and instead goes to extraordinary lengths to keep up this illusion. It's here that Suissa's film finds its heart, with Maurice and his bumbling group of friends concocting some amusing schemes to prevent Perla from discovering the truth, while also showing how far the budding actor will go to squeeze a few drops of pleasure from his ailing wife's final days. As Perla's health fails her, the film builds to an affecting conclusion, resulting in a salutary tale that is sure to move even the hardiest of souls.
[The Grand Role] has little to offer except a maudlin love story that ironically feels like a Tinseltown tearjerker facsimile...the ridiculous movie-within-the-movie deserves more screen time, if only to balance the wretchedly sentimental (and unintentionally Spiel-bergian) finale.
DVD, French, English, Subtitled
First Run Feature
New York Magazine
Engaging and undeniabley moving.
The New York Times
A touching Parisian love story!
A couwd-pleasing dramatic comedy about love, friendship and Jewish pride.
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