Despite its florid title, The Flower of Evil is one of Claude Chabrol's more tepid inquiries into the dark underside of bourgeois life. While the film is nicely shot, appealingly acted, and fairly entertaining, it doesn't have the taut structure and pervasive sense of dread that informs Chabrol's best work. The cast is good, with Benoît Magimel (of The Piano Teacher) and Mélanie Doutey (a big-eyed waif in the manner of Audrey Tautou) charming and sexy as romantically entangled step-siblings, and Suzanne Flon drolly cantankerous as their adorably prickly great aunt. Nathalie Baye brings some humanity to her role as a capricious local politician, but Bernard Le Coq is rather one-note as her sleazy husband. The real problem with the film is the script, by Chabrol, Louise L. Lambrichs, and Caroline Eliacheff (who had a more fruitful collaboration with the director on 1995's La Cérémonie). The revelations in the film are heavily weighted toward a long, late monologue delivered by Flon, hardly the most exciting climax for a murder mystery. Beyond that, the story offers a brief, but fairly interesting, look at local French politics. The Flower of Evil is passably entertaining, thanks in large part to the director's skill with the camera, and his actors' skill in bringing these sketchily written characters to life.
by Josh Ralske review