Alain Corneau’s final film, Love Crime, is a corporate crime thriller that explores the relationships of women in power, but while Corneau delivers a slick, well-acted piece with a surprising mid-movie twist, Love Crime is too thin and too on-point to deliver the jolt he and co-screenwriter Nathalie Carter most likely intended. Ludivine Sagnier stars as an ambitious businesswoman rapidly climbing the ladder under the tutelage of her boss, Kristin Scott Thomas. But when Sagnier realizes she’ll never move any higher so long as Thomas keeps taking credit for her ideas, she comes up with an illicit scheme to get Thomas out of the way, and counter-intuitively arranges it so she’ll look so guilty, everyone will assume she’s being framed.
The details of Sagnier’s plan come out in pieces over the second half of the film, and though they strain credulity, they’re very clever. Love Crime also initially seems to have something relevant to say about business ethics, and about a corporate culture that encourages employees to be cutthroat so long as it helps the company. (“It’s not a betrayal,” Thomas explains at one point. “It’s teamwork.”) But the details of Sagnier and Thomas’ work life aren’t as meticulously laid out as the crime. The ladies work in an office where clients toss around generic buzz-speak like “Those three communication bullets she suggested are really going to impress them in a country where they’re not used to these new techniques. We’re talking about a 15 to 20 percent increase in the company value. That’s a banner day that’s going to put us at the top of the agro-industry!” (And the dialogue isn’t meant to be satirical.)
Of course, it isn’t essential for everything about Love Crime to be believable. It’s plenty enjoyable just to watch Sagnier use her wits to get the better of the smug Thomas. But it’s hard to take Corneau and Carter’s points about the amorality of business executives seriously when the world these characters live in comes off like a third-hand rumor about what a corporation is like. The Columbo-esque mystery elements of Love Crime are just fine. But nothing else has really been fleshed out.