Jeanne du Barry reviews: Critics suggest French film is not quite the comeback Johnny Depp was hoping for

‘Depp may be the actor least suited – after Hulk Hogan – to playing an ancien régime monarch,’ wrote one critic

Tom Murray
Wednesday 17 May 2023 05:04 BST
Johnny Depp arrives at Cannes Film Festival for opening night

The first reviews are in for Johnny Depp’s new movie Jeanne du Barry following its Cannes Film Festival premiere on Tuesday (16 May).

The French-language film directed by Maïwenn was controversially chosen to open the festival this year.

The biographical movie follows the working-class Madame du Barry (played by Maïwenn) on her quest to climb the social ladder of 18th-century France. Depp plays King Louis XV who invites Jeanne to Versailles, much to the horror of the French court.

Since his failed 2018 lawsuit against The Sun – in which a judge later ruled that the tabloid’s description of him as a “wife beater” was “substantially true” – Depp has failed to land a role in a major US film.

Jeanne du Barry is seen by some as a comeback of sorts after the actor’s 2022 lawsuit victory over his ex-wife, Amber Heard. The jury found that Heard had defamed Depp by implying he had abused her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed.

However, reviews for Maïwenn’s film have been middling at best with critics suggesting that it might not quite be the triumphant return Depp was hoping for.

Johnny Depp in ‘Jeanne du Barry’

Find a roundup of the reviews below.

The Telegraphtwo stars

“Depp may be the actor least suited – after Hulk Hogan – to playing an ancien régime monarch,” writes Robbie Collins.

“True, his French is not too shabby, but his regal gravitas is nonexistent, and he only truly looks at home in the role during occasional bouts of clowning, which hardly help sell his casting as an inspired choice...

“... Depp is hardly the first Hollywood outcast to find work in Europe, but it would be a stretch to say this feels like the first spark of a glorious comeback.”

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Evening Standard two stars

“You can’t help but think of Depp, that gilded youth whose looks may have waned but whose charm here is undimmed,” writes Jo-Ann Titmarsh.

“After films such as Mortdecai and the Pirates franchise, it is great to see Depp in subtle and quiet mode – more Colonel Joll of Waiting for the Barbarians and less Jack Sparrow – and in French to boot. Still, this offers little to the already replete genre of costume dramas set in the waning years of monarchic dynasties, and despite all of Jeanne’s cavorting in free-spirited fashion, it doesn’t offer a new take on a historical period.”

Johnny Depp and Maïwenn at Cannes Film Festival

The Timesthree stars

“Depp produces a forlorn character of sadness and quiet regret, mostly from tiny looks and disappointed grimaces. Yes, when he speaks, he speaks French throughout. And yes, despite some apparently assiduous work with a dialect coach, he speaks French like an American speaking French,” Kevin Maher writes.

Maher adds that Jeanne du Barry is “very occasionally too tasteful for its own good. But it’s also mature and grounded, and represents probably the best recovery vehicle that Depp is going to get.”

The Guardianthree stars

“The essential silliness of the film is part of its watchability, though perhaps Maïwenn is never quite sure how to handle Depp. Without this spectacular casting – although Depp is certainly good enough for it not to be simply stunt casting – Louis XV would just be an unsexy old guy, the royal sugar daddy, and much more emphasis would be placed on Jeanne’s political strategising,” writes Peter Bradshaw.

“It’s an entertaining spectacle, only partly aware of its own vanity.”

IndieWireB-

“Though performing wholly in French and given ample screen time, the American star leaves a strangely scant impression, offering a dim and muted turn that plays off his wider reputation in often fascinating ways,” Ben Croll writes.

The Hollywood Reporter

“Even the casting – some would say stunt casting – of Johnny Depp as the king offers a few early thrills and then mostly yawns, with Depp dishing out what feels like a total of a dozen lines in respectable French, while otherwise remaining mute. His performance isn’t bad, and neither is Maïwenn’s in the lead role. But the two of them, like the movie, rarely get our pulse racing,” Jordan Mintzer writes.

“With all the recent controversy surrounding Depp, not to mention Maïwenn herself, the result of their collaboration is a handsome period piece that feels both flat and shallow, and certainly far from any scandale.”

Jeanne du Barry does not yet have a UK release date.

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