In Read My Lips, a new French psychological thriller, Emmanuelle Devos discovers that her near-deafness has its advantages. While babysitting an infant niece who won't stop crying, for example, she simply removes her hearing aids, shutting out the things that give her trouble. Her approach to life follows suit, as she skulks behind her secretarial desk, observing a world that's only too content to let her watch in silence. That changes when she collapses from exhaustion and her superiors insist she hire an assistant. Requesting a man with, among other features, "nice hands," Devos almost seems to mistake the employment service for a dating service. What she gets is better than she could have hoped, and more than she bargained for. Not that he's a dreamboat. In fact, ex-convict Vincent Cassel looks a little too rough around the edges to work in an office. The two bring out the best in each other, however: She cleans him up, and he teaches her how to apply Machiavellian street tactics to the business world. Soon, she seems less like a mousy secretary than Stacy Edwards' character from In The Company Of Men, returned to have her revenge. For as long as director and co-writer Jacques Audiard focuses on the central relationship, his stylish film stays on steady footing. Devos and Cassel don't quite know each other's expectations for their partnership, or even necessarily their own. Is this a romance in the making, or is someone going to wind up dead? After a while, Read My Lips becomes a far more conventional thriller, as the two stop circling around each other and instead pursue a garbage bag filled with stolen cash. Lips never quite returns to its original form, and a much more memorable film gets lost in the process.