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Les Girls - Saturday 3 October 1998

Distributor expects C't'a Ton Tour, Laura Cadieux, a film about big women, to be a big hit

BRENDAN KELLY
The Gazette

Last year, it was Les Boys, the biggest success story in the history of Quebec cinema. This year, it's Les Girls.

The most anticipated made-in-Quebec film this fall season is C't'a Ton Tour, Laura Cadieux (It's Your Turn, Laura), a gritty, often ribald comedy about a group of middle-aged Montreal women who swap stories in the waiting room of a weight-loss clinic every week.

The French-language movie, which stars pop-culture icon Ginette Reno, is set to open on 52 screens across the province next Friday, making it one of the biggest launches for a Quebec flick.

Alliance Vivafilm, the province's top film distributor, is pulling out all stops on this one, with a $225,000 advertising campaign that includes highway billboards, ads on the side of buses and in the metro, previews that have been running in cinemas for weeks now, and a major push in the print and electronic media throughout Quebec.

Alliance is also putting on avant-premieres in several cities and the company will fly the film's stars to events in Trois Rivieres tomorrow, Quebec City on Monday, Chicoutimi on Tuesday, Place des Arts in Montreal on Wednesday, Sherbrooke on Thursday, and Gatineau on Friday.

It's Alliance's highest profile Quebecois project since La Florida five years ago. Obviously, the folks behind the film believe it has the potential to ring-up some big-time action at the box office.

But are moviegoers used to Hollywood blockbusters loaded with special-effects action ready for a salty kitchen-sink comedy about a gang of obese gals? New Alliance Vivafilm president Guy Gagnon thinks so, and he's putting his money where his mouth is.

"The Quebec public likes to laugh and they like emotion," Gagnon said. "That's what Laura Cadieux is all about. When people pay $8, they want a fun night out. However, the women will like it more than the guys. But the good thing is that it's usually the women, not the men, who decide which film they're going to go see together on a Saturday night. And I think once the men get there, they'll like it."

Laura Cadieux is based on the 1972 novel by prolific Montreal writer Michel Tremblay, a tale inspired by Tremblay's own experiences at a weight-loss clinic.

Like many of Tremblay's best-known plays, Laura Cadieux is a woman's story and the men play a secondary role. The novel has been freely adapted by actress and theatre director Denise Filiatrault, who also makes her film directorial debut with the project.

Filiatrault has expanded the scope of the narrative, adding more scenes outside the doctor's office, including a zany subplot where Cadieux's friend Mme. Therrien (Pierrette Robitaille) combs the city's metro system looking for Cadieux's young son.

But the essence of the story remains the chubby ladies and their frustration with their dress sizes, and Filiatrault is confident it's a theme that will strike a chord with Quebecers of all shapes.

But she cautions that it's really not a female version of Les Boys.

"I saw Les Boys and I liked it," said Filiatrault in a phone interview from Belgium, where Laura Cadieux had its European premiere at the Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur.

"I don't pretend to have made a film as funny as Les Boys. But it's a lot more moving. Les Boys didn't really touch anyone. You laugh and that's it. There's a poetic quality to Laura Cadieux.

"People have told me it reminds them of the poetry of the German film Baghdad Cafe and that's a tremendous compliment.

"It's not an obvious subject," she continued.

"To make a film about fat women, people expect us to laugh at the women because they're fat and that's not the point at all. I wanted to make a popular film that also had emotional content.

"I've always worked for the people, but just because we work for the people doesn't mean that we have to treat them like imbeciles.

"We can give them things that are beautiful, that will touch them and which they can identify with."

One of the scenes that will almost certainly have tongues wagging is a steamy sequence where busty, not-too-skinny Alice Thibodeau gets it on with the local butcher in his refrigerated back room.

It's a funny, sexy moment that also manages to subvert the common notion that overweight women can't have erotic appeal. Sonia Vachon, who plays Alice, makes her big-screen debut in Laura Cadieux.

She said it was a dream gig to play a large-sized woman who's also a sex symbol.

"For sure it'll get people talking because I don't think we've seen many scenes like that with an actress who doesn't fit the usual standard of beauty and slimness," Vachon said.

"What I liked in the film and in the character is that for once we see a chubby woman who doesn't have a complex about her weight.

"She likes herself and so do the men around her. It's a comic scene and, for some people, it might be easier to take because it's done as comedy.

"I often feel that people believe that chubby women can't possibly have a social life, can't possibly have a sexual life."

- C't'a Ton Tour, Laura Cadieux opens Friday across Quebec, with a copy sporting English subtitles at the Egyptien Cinema.