The success of Call My Agent (or Dix pour cent) is down to its Extras-style concept of famous French actors playing themselves in a delightfully self-mocking manner. In the Parisian talent agency ASK, four eclectic agents fight for the best contracts for their protégés, often crossing the line into private matters.
The premise is simple. Each episode features one star while consistency is kept thanks to the twists in ASK’s management. Created by Dominique Besnehard and Fanny Herrero, the comedy-drama series is remarkably authentic. The former was himself a famous agent and many scenes here are based on his incredible anecdotes.
Now, in its third season, Call My Agent is still appealing as it continues to delve into the backstage of a fascinating industry while also managing to both fulfill and subvert the expectations of its guest stars’ personas.
The new season makes its comeback with Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist). Having lost himself so deeply in a Di Caprio in The Revenant-esque role, he is now living in a hut, eating raw rabbit meat. Thus, it’s up to ASK’s staff to get Dujardin ready for this next movie where he is to play a banker. At one point, the actor becomes so feral, he bites a dog to retrieve a precious item back from the animal.
In another episode, sex symbol Monica Bellucci (Irreversible, Matrix Reloaded) is depicted as a lonely romantic in a quest for a “normal” man because she can’t bear being single for a couple of weeks. As for the prolific Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, Elle), she is here a rigorous workaholic shooting several films at once thanks to a meticulous plan. However, in doing so, she breaks her contract with the American film in which she is starring, adding some narrative tension to the latter part of the season.
The episode featuring Béatrice Dalle (Trouble Every Day, Inside) is the most moving. The actress gives a heartbreaking, honest performance explaining that it took her 30 years before learning to say no to shooting unjustified nude scenes. The second-last episode of the season, it serves as a late reminder amongst all the showbiz glitz of the serious issue of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
However, if Call My Agent previously kept a nice ratio between the agents and actors’ stories, some plots of the third season put the balance off. In the episode starring Gérard Lanvin (Point Blank, The Taste of Others), the drama behind ASK takes over the crisis of the older star who fears the arrival of a younger actor. Here, the viewer loses interest due to a faltering story line and lack of dynamic.
Occasionally the series struggles to match the witty dialogue and jubilatory rhythm of its early episodes. Some plot strands are thrown away too quickly such as the love story of assistant, Herve (Nicolas Maury). This is especially disappointing as having been under served in previous seasons, it finally felt like we were getting to know the character more intimately.
Yet, most of the main players are well-defined. Some recurring characters even grow in depth such as the new boss of ASK, Hicham (Assaad Bouab), a money man with little interest in film. Initially painted as a control freak avid of power, more complexity is brought to his role. Meanwhile, the lead character and fearless main agent Andrea (Camille Cottin – Allied, The Shadow of Iris) stays the real star, bringing a furious energy and charisma much needed.
I couldn’t end this review without highlighting hilarious assistant Noémie played by Laure Calamy. Possessing undeniable, impeccable comic timing, she is now my spirit animal.