March 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Wistful 'On My Way' sends aging beauty queen on a road trip

Catherine Deneuve stars as grandmother who bonds with her grandson, played by Nemo Schiffman, in the comedy drama 'On My Way.' (Jean Marie Leroy / Cohen Media Group)

“On My Way” is a wistful confection that’s both rambling road trip and meditation on aging beauty.

Catherine Deneuve — who else? — stars as Bettie, a onetime beauty queen who’s widowed and living with her mother in a small French village. Bettie owns a restaurant that’s going under, and, early on, she finds out her married lover has left both her and his wife for a young thing he impregnated.

Eventually, Bettie just walks out the back door of her restaurant, gets in her car and drives away. And she keeps on driving, heading nowhere in particular.

For a while Bettie just drifts — she picks up a much younger man at a bar. She drives through small towns in search of a cigarette, then finds an old man who can roll one for her. She gets caught in a rainstorm, and a security guard lets her take refuge in a furniture store. It’s uneven, but then so is Bettie.

But then she gets a call from her estranged daughter Muriel (Camille), who wants a favor. She has a job application in Brussels, could Bettie drive her son Charly (Nemo Schiffman) to his paternal grandfather’s house to stay?

So the film turns into a rocky bonding exercise between the boy and the grandmother he doesn’t even remember. To spice things up, Bettie takes a detour to a reunion of beauty contestants from 1969, which only brings back memories of the beauty she was. Eventually, though, Charly’s grandfather shows up and a family reunion of sorts takes place.

Writer-director Emmanuelle Bercot certainly hits a lot of notes along the way, playing neither dark nor light in full, traipsing through family dysfunction and betrayed love with both mortality and a smile ever overhead.

It’s a nice trick, and so French.

'On My Way'

GRADE: B-

Not rated

Running time: 116 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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