Nathalie is a very French film, telling a sexy story, but with a touch of what some Americans would no doubt call “perversion.”
Catherine (Fanny Ardant) finds that her husband, Bernard, has been cheating on her. In her stew of emotions, apparently curiosity is the strongest flavor, and one night she hires a (somewhat) refined prostitute to flirt with her husband, then report back. After only the second encounter, “Nathalie” reports that she has slept with Catherine’s husband. And although she is furious, she keeps Nathalie on the payroll to see what will happen next.
The movie does provide food for thought. Specifically, Catherine’s mind is a rich and complex place, both repelled and drawn to her husband’s affair. Unfortunately, hers is the only character with any depth. Bernard (Gerard Depardieu) is basically a prop and although Nathalie is fully realized by Emmanuelle Beart, she is more of a plot device than a real character.
I actually liked Nathalie for the chance to psychoanalyze Catherine and her unconventional reaction to an extramarital affair. But of the people I saw the film with I was in the minority. Perhaps the movie’s French-ness will put off American sensibilities. But if you’re not intimidated by films like The Piano Teacher or The Dreamers, give Nathalie a look.