CRUMBLIES… 5 crumblies

Mad Maud had been waxing critical on the weakness of men. An extra shot in her morning caffeine intake and she’d got on to worrisome prostates and erectile dysfunction looking like a tic bit compared to the hormonal nuclear bombs that hit women. Specifically pregnancy, post-pregnancy and the menopause. Not that she remembers much about any of the aforesaid issues, what with touching 90 this week and being, you know, mad. Asked to describe what she went through and it’s mostly about Sane Sebastian’s nethers and their failure to keep her pleasured or him alive. Prostate cancer, don’t ya know.

Anyway, what did we all do that evening? We elected to watch a couple of films at either end of the menopausal scale. A rubbish one with laughs (of which, more elsewhere) and a French one: I Got Life! in our country; Aurore back home.

And it’s huge fun! The absolute opposite of the ghastly angst of Let the Sunshine In (2017), it takes you into the agonised life of Aurore (the pained, put-upon and entrancing Agnès Jaoui). She’s 50, not-quite-divorced, soon to be unemployed and has two daughters: one gone and pregnant, so hello grand-dame, and the other deep into lovelorn late adolescence. Aurore has to slam the front-door to alert the latter to stop shagging so loudly (Lou Roy-Lecollinet is great as the loved-up youth heading for disappointment).

And on top of all this come the hot flashes (why not flushes? This old brain asks…). Unexpected waves of sweat and emotion have her ripping off clothes or dashing out of airless rooms. I’ll be honest, part of old Jack was thrilling to the random stripping, but I wouldn’t want to come across as insensitive – just complicated in my sympathies.  Poor Aurore. What’s to live for when you feel you’re disintegrating?

Aurore has comedy friends as well, most tellingly Pascale Arbillot as Mano. She’s glorious. Tart, pointed, and full of vengeance. In one brilliant moment, which had Mad Maud’s cackles joined by the women and men in the TV room, Mano and Aurore spot a middle-aged man out with a younger woman. They’ve never met, but Mano runs up and accuses him of being unfaithful to her – and throws a ring in his face. Then runs off, grabbing Aurore on the way. Cruel, ice-coldly Gallic, the moment echoes through the film as the man pops up at Aurore’s unemployment outreach day…in charge. Jaoui is wonderfully squirmy as he torments her for her friend’s behaviour…

I Got Life! is a lovely examination of the irritations of mid-life and that special torment set aside for women. The bar Aurore works at is taken over by a long-haired, beardy dick who changes all the staff’s names to his idea of sexy (Aurore gets Samantha). Remember that point in life when you ended up working for youngsters? The kids react one of two ways: they get earnest and aggressive about their way of doing things, fuck your experience; or they sack you. Aurore grabs the moment – which comes with the new owner demanding something so small and petty I would have snipered him into the dishwasher – that she walks. For mid-life will drag you to the point of storming out…

In a film made and – it was explained to me afterwards – almost entirely featuring women, there are a couple of telling men. Aurore’s ex husband Nanan, played with lanky-and-sweaty casualness by Philippe Rebbot, the man she abandoned a relationship for all those years ago. And the man she abandoned, Totoche, played by the beardy and gentleman-with-the-ultrasound, Thibault de Montalembert. Aurore gets him to examine her pregnant daughter as some kind of mid-life flirting, which leads to a terrific row with the daughter (Marina, played by a completely convincingly pregnant Sara Suco) and a bizarre date in an…

…opera-singer-waitered restaurant. Really. They look at each other in various states of guilt, doubt and embarrassment as the waiting staff belt out noisy classics I’m too ill-educated to name. And Totoche backs away…he’s falling for her, but cannot face the complexity from their youth. Or something. It feels more like a hiccup in happy-ending plotting than a genuine reason…because it is…

And then Aurore’s life gets really complicated. She scrabbles around for a job and ends up cleaning for a home of senior women. French character actors abound and the atmosphere is lovely as mid-life reduces Aurore to a flop-sweaty mess, wounded by the whirlpool of her daughters, the ex husband, the job market, and the need for companionship.

Old Jack laughed throughout this film. It’s attitude is comic, it’s touch somewhere between light and meaningful and the occasional punch in the face. Grab a wine, grab some friends, and bask in a film – and some lovely daydreamy scenes – where the knackered Mum in Jaoui sheds her exhaustions and boogies in hope to I Got Life!

And that life is, ultimately, sweet to her and her audience. Mid-lifers, all.