The Gilded Cage

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La Cage dorée

France’s latest sleeper box office hit is a funny, warm-hearted and hugely entertaining upstairs-downstairs comedy.

Director: Ruben Alves
Year: 2013
Country: France, Portugal
Running time: 91 mins
Censor Rating: PG - low level offensive language
Genres: Comedy

Producers: Hugo Gélin, Laëtitia Galitzine, Danièle Delorme
Screenplay: Ruben Alves, Hugo Gélin, Jean-André Yerlès
Photography: André Szankowksi
Editor: Nassim Gordji Tehrani
Production designer: Maamar Ech-Cheikh
Costume designer: Isabelle Mathieu
Sound: Thomas Lascar, Olivier Walczak, Vincent Cosson
Music: Rodrigo Leao
In French, English and Portuguese, with English subtitles

With: Rita Blanco (Maria), Joaquim de Almeida (José), Roland Giraud (Francis Cailaux), Chantal Lauby (Solange Cailaux), Barbara Cabrita (Paula), Lannick Gautry (Charles), Maria Vieira (Rosa), Jacqueline Corado (Lourdes), Jean-Pierre Martins (Carlos)

This generous, upstairs-downstairs comedy from French-Portuguese director/co-writer Ruben Alves comes richly informed by his own upbringing as the son  of Portuguese immigrants in Paris

Since leaving Portugal 30 years ago, Maria and José have been living in their modest ground floor lodgings in a smart Parisian apartment building. Maria is the building’s concierge, always available – even on her day off – delivering mail, polishing banisters, pruning the courtyard roses, and generally maintaining the chic standards the inhabitants depend on. José, a building site foreman, takes equal pride in his work and is equally as indispensable to his boss, Francis. José’s ability to manage a team and see projects through gives Francis time to pursue the leisurely lifestyle to which he’s accustomed.

This ‘natural order’ of things comes asunder when José learns he has inherited a contested family property and the couple’s dream of returning to Portugal is now possible. But, how will their employers cope? And what about their teenage son and adult daughter, whose roots have been firmly planted in Parisian soil? And do they in fact even want to leave behind this ‘gilded cage’ they have made for themselves?

Soon family, neighbours, friends and employers are outdoing each other to find ways to prevent Maria and José from leaving. Dealing wittily with cultural and social differences, the film is a smart, well-crafted comedy, sporting a terrific Portuguese and French ensemble cast, spot-on comic timing and a thoroughly appealing central couple, whose dilemmas are portrayed with great affection. — Sandra Reid