READ MY LIPS
As Carla, a brown smudge of a partially deaf secretary in this expertly sinister, office-as-devil’s-playground French thriller, Emmanuelle Devos is the precise opposite of Stacy Edwards as the darkly attractive, hearing-impaired target of male mischief in In the Company of Men. Devos (who won a Cesar for her performance) looks truly mousy while conveying private, sullen fury; her everyday, oppressive working conditions (captured by director Jacques Audiard with slicing economy) are identifiably ordinary; and the escape she finds from her average misery is truly shocking, the opposite of victimhood. First she turns down her hearing aids to manage her rage. Then she hires a grimy ex-con (experienced thug-player Vincent Cassel) as her assistant. He can rob, she can lip-read, and Audiard contrasts their complementary skills and weaknesses (they’re both clumsy and wary of intimacy) with real originality. The attraction between these two marginal characters is complex from the start — and, refreshingly, stays that way.