by Susan Patterson
Partners in Crime (Associés Contre le Crime... ) (2012) is Pascal Thomas’ third adaptation featuring Agatha Christie’s detective duo Tommy, renamed Bélisaire for a French audience, and Tuppence, going by her full name of Prudence. Christie’s introduced the couple in 1922 in the Secret Adversary. They were a frothy, cheerful couple, who reappeared in Partners in Crime in 1929, a collection of short stories, and a further three novels, the couple ageing with the time passed between the books.
Thomas’ film is loosely based on the Case of the Missing Lady, one of the stories from Partners in Crime. Very loosely based. It is more an amalgam of all of the Beresford stories, keeping the teasing, light-hearted nature of their early relationship, but making them them the much older couple of the later books. Prudence, played by Catherine Frot, known to English-speaking audiences at the pianist in the Page Turner (2006), is bored being the wife of a man (André Dussollier) who makes his living writing about his military past. She is ignored by his entourage, and written out of his exploits in the advice of his editor. Her life only brightens up when the General, a figure from their past, turns up at their beautiful lakeside house to say that a Belgium acquaintance would like to start a detective agency in France. Their first case is the search for a missing Russian heiress, which sends them off to a sanatorium where nefariousness deeds are going on.
This is a light-hearted caper with touches of the Pink Panther about it. What lifts it are the central performances by Dussollier and, most especially, Frot; the breath-taking scenery of Haute Savoie; and the beautiful costumes. It’s the perfect post-Christmas cinema outing; undemanding, nice to look at, familiar yet unfamiliar. But be warned, the last ten minutes stray into a weird second ending, and it is safe to leave early.
Partners in Crime opens at the Ciné Lumière on 14 December, and is released on DVD by STUDIOCANAL on 7 January 2013