Last night, I finished watching the first season of Class Act “Tapie” 2023 Netflix mini-series, a French biographical drama TV series that came out in mid-September 2023.
Season 1 consists of seven episodes; each episode is about 50 minutes. I watched them over the past four days. It’s a fictionalized biography loosely based on the life of Bernard Tapie, a famous French businessman.
Before coming across this French TV series, I’d never heard of Bernard Tapie before; I had to look him up on the internet. One of the first things I learned about this figure was that he was somewhat controversial. According to Wikipedia, in 1993, he was accused of fixing the match between his football club and minor club Valenciennes. Also, I learned that he was a politician for a period and a vigorous businessman who was important enough that his death in October 2021 made mainstream media headlines. The following texts detail what I enjoy and don’t enjoy in the Class Act “Tapie” TV series.
In Class Act Season 1, one of the things that makes the show enjoyable to watch is that it has quite a few interesting dialogue scenes. For instance, there was a scene in the first episode, “Passport to the Sun,” where Bernard Tapie was making some paella in the kitchen, and his friend came along and asked if he needed some help.
They chatted about Bernard having a lunch date with a secretary from his investor’s office. Embarrassed to talk about this particular topic, Bernard accidentally suddenly blurted out this young lady’s name.
– Je lui en ai assez fait baver, la pauvre Dominique. (I already gave her enough of a hard time, poor Dominique.)
– C’est qui, Dominique ?
– Quoi, Dominique ?
At that moment, his wife Michelle asked if the paella was ready. Bernard responded, “oui, deux miniqes… minutes.” (“Yes, two ‘minique.’ Two minutes.”). I thought that was a fun scene to watch, with some subtle linguistic aspects of verbal humor that could happen in real life.
There were a few scenes that were gripping with intense dialogues. My favorite scene came closer to the end of the last episode in season 1, where Bernard showed up at the prosecutor’s office. I thought it was a not-so-wise move. Why would anyone want to show up at the desk of a prosecutor? Note that the prosecutor didn’t summon him.
The prosecutor gave Bernard a chance and asked if he was certain about discussing the matter in his office. Bernard thought he was good enough or important enough to devise a tall tale to cover his transgressions. I don’t recognize the actor who plays the prosecutor, but he reminds me of the British actor Mark Rylance, who appears in the Bridge of Spies film (2015). Perhaps the atmosphere was similar.
One thing that bothers me slightly was that after watching all seven episodes, the question of what is the character arc in the Bernard Tapie story left unanswered.
Has Bernard, the protagonist, undergone a significant transformation during the film? A character arc in a film could mean a protagonist may start as one sort of person, one particular type of personality; throughout the course of the story, the protagonist may be transformed or developed into another sort of person.
If we look at Bernard’s story, did Bernard grow? Did Bernard change? What journey did he go on? What did Bernard want to achieve? What was his motivation? It’s hard to answer these questions involving the concept of character arc because, quite frankly, Bernard stays the same throughout the story. Maybe it’s because it is only Season 1 or because TV series are not exactly like movies, where characters grow, evolve, face setbacks, and conquer their fears.
Bernard has been like him from the beginning of the episode. He walks in the grey area, playing with the rules but not entirely going by the rules. All in all, Tapie himself didn’t experience any changes.
Another thing that bothered me was that there was no chemistry between Bernard and his second wife Dominique. With Dominique, the investor’s secretary, when they first met, the first look didn’t say anything. The idea was that Dominique was supposed to feel something when she first met Bernard. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it that way.
Even the second look fails – the office private conversation scene where Dominique asked for Tapie’s signature on his album, nothing was going on between them. There was no spark between the French actors Laurent Lafitte, who played Bernard Tapie, and actress Joséphine Japy, who played Dominique Tapie.
Perhaps there was a problem with body language. Perhaps it was the way they said their lines. I’m not exactly sure why the couple had no immediate connection. Perhaps it was the facial expressions of Dominique that failed to play the part well. The idea was that Dominique was supposed to be fascinated by Bernard’s talents in the entertainment industry; the couple should instantly feel connected. Throughout the seven episodes, Bernard and Dominique look like a fake couple that would appear in some furniture advertisements.
Looking at Bernard’s relationship with his first wife, Michelle, however, is more convincing. Perhaps it was the actress Ophélia Kolb, who plays Michelle, who helped make the couple’s interaction scenes more authentic. Because that look is the kind of look a wife would cast towards her husband in their ten-year relationship. The kind of look that carries weight, tells stories, and shows how much she cares. When she showed up in the frame, she was a living conservative, typical wife that you could find in the suburbs of France. I can’t say for sure, but I have this feeling that perhaps Ophélia Kolb has won the hearts of film critics and audiences that hopefully there’d be more important parts for her to play in the coming years.
There were some snippets in the show that felt as if I was watching some Elvis Presley film. A few scenes I thought were quite redundant and could have been omitted by some film editing work. There was one scene that reminded me of Dix pour cent “Call My Agent!” another French-language comedy TV show I watched some two years ago. It was the scene where Bernard wanted to secretly get some insider information from Alexis Cleret de Grandval, a wealthy businessman.
There were three of them sitting in a room: Bernard’s general secretary, Nicole Le Carré, Bernard’s friend, and Alexis Cleret de Grandval. There were many scenes in Call My Agent! which shot like this one where two characters from Bernard’s camp share a sofa, and the other character, the weather investor, sits in front of them.
But overall, it was not bad. It was an engaging drama. If you like biographical films, I’d recommend it. If you like historical drama, particularly the 1960s to 1990s period, it deserves a chance. If you want to work on your French listening skills, watch this film.