Finally, a movie that appeals to everyone: a French romantic comedy about women's sports. It's 1958, and the 21-year-old Rose Pamphyle yearns to escape her small French village for a modern life in town. She teaches herself to type (using that two-finger chicken-pecking technique your grandmother employs) and heads to the bustling city of Lisieux to apply for a job as a secretary. Unfortunately, the lovely Rose is a comical klutz with no talent for secretarying. Fortunately, her would-be boss is a diminutive rooster with a competitive streak, and Rose can type extraordinarily fast with her two-finger pecking. The job is hers on one condition: She must enter, and win, a regional speed-typing competition. Soon, we see Rose living and training each day in Rocky-esque montages with her trainer-boss, Louis Echard, who vows to turn her into the fastest typist in the country, no matter the cost.
Populaire's plot never evolves beyond standard romantic-comedy fare, and even there, it stumbles when it gets too serious. But the film's setting is charming, its dialogue is sharp and pokes fun at its own tropes ("wearing eyeglasses is indispensable" to being a good secretary, whether you need them or not, one woman counsels another), and the speed-typing competitions are as real and as riveting as any sport. (Déborah François, who plays Rose, employed a professional typing coach for six months before filming.) Consider it a tribute to the golden era of the '50s and early women's lib, and enjoy it for what it does best: makes you fall in love with people who fall in love in two hours or less. In glorious Technicolor!