In the sanitized exercise of the press meeting, Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley stand out with their spontaneity and their laughter. On promotion in Paris for their old-fashioned English comedy, Scandalously Yours, the duo plays twin sisters. Black blazer and pants, peroxide blonde hair. The fifty-year-old star of The Crown and her Irish colleague, seen in Women Talking, fifteen years her junior, welcome the journalist like a comrade with whom to have tea. The discussion opens on the next Olympic Games and the brilliance of Anatomy of a Fall before getting back on track when their eyes land on the box of biscuits brought by Olivia Colman. Heart-shaped red shortbread with the word cunt written on it.

Enough to summarize Scandalously Yours, which recounts a news item that hit the headlines in England in the 1920s. A small coastal town, Littlehampton, is the target of a crow with flowery language and beautiful calligraphy. His filthy letters, and improbable in their hyperbole, target Edith, an old maid taking care of her father, a conservative who sees the work of the devil everywhere. Edith suspects Rose, her single mother neighbor, of being the author. The one who closed the pub didn’t hesitate to stand up to Edith’s father. Soon the picrocholine quarrel landed on the police desk. With consequences that go far beyond the comic harangues between Rose and Edith.

Also read: Our review of the film In the Skin of Blanche Houellebecq: the possibility of laughter

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley starred in The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Netflix adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel. But, playing the same character of an overwhelmed mother at different ages, they never spoke to each other. With regret. The actresses had established a real camaraderie on the set “drinking and singing every evening”. When reading the script for Scandalously Yours, Olivia Colman immediately thought of her friend for the fiery Rose. Moved by this heroine, “perceived as monstrous by her peers”, who “yet refuses to give in despite the rejection she is subjected to”, Jessie Buckley appreciated returning “to a lighter and funny register”. And to welcome “a film which twists the neck of a corseted, polished vision à la Downton Abbey, which we could have of the women of the time”.

For Olivia Colman, the tragedy of Scandalously Yours is that Rose and Edith had everything to become allies. “Under the controlled rule of this dominating paterfamilias, Edith is reminiscent of women trapped in toxic relationships and domestic violence, deprived of autonomy and financial independence. Edith has no way of getting help. Looking at her, I realize how lucky I am to have had parents who encouraged me to follow the only discipline where I wasn’t a disaster at school: comedy. At each parent-teacher meeting, my teachers told them: “Ah, if your daughter wasn’t a clown…”, confides the Oscar-winning actress for The Favorite, by Yorgos Lanthimos. And to deplore “society’s more severe view of women”: “When I was young, my mother still told me that it was not done to talk about one’s sex life and to admit an appetite for the pleasures of the flesh like Rose does.” The anonymous letters from Littlehampton are also a warning in the age of social networks. “We have learned nothing from the poisonous feathers of yesteryear. It’s worse now since we can take refuge behind the anonymity of a pseudonym,” laments the actress.

Making honey of the bird names that dot the dialogues of Thea Sharrock’s comedy was, on the other hand, a pleasure. “Believe it or not, but 85% of our replies are taken from the letters in the file. Jessie and I have easy swear words. They go out on their own. Throwing them was a delicious game of ping-pong,” laughs Olivia Colman, who, as soon as she bumps into something, tends to swear to free herself from the shock. “I tell my children it’s the best way to move on,” she laughs. Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley are already looking for a third collaboration. With the help of awards season, they dreamed, in Paris, of finding themselves in front of the camera of Yorgos Lanthimos or Justine Triet. Otherwise, they jokingly threaten, they will create their own scenario. Perhaps a pirate story, they conclude with a burst of laughter! They have the look for it.

The Note of Figaro: 2.5/4