Mama Weed (La Daronne), from director Jean-Paul Salomé, takes us into the Paris underworld, but from a somewhat different perspective. Our entry into that world is not through a hardened career criminal or long-suffering police officer. It is a woman who stumbles into an opportunity and makes the most of it.
Patience Portefeux (Isabelle Huppert) works as a translator for the police. She spends her day listening to the phone calls of the city’s drug dealers. She’s having a bit of an affair with her boss. But she is going broke. Her mother is in a long-term care facility, and Patience is months behind in paying. As she listens to a call one day, she hears her mother’s nurse’s son and tries to protect him. In the process she ends up with about a ton of hashish. She sets up her own drug network, making use of some of the dimmer dealers she knows from the wiretaps. Her inside information about how the police work gives her a way to try to avoid detection. She takes on the persona of an Arab woman and soon she is being tracked down by the police (including her lover/boss) and the real criminals whose drugs these are.
The film is a blend of comedy, thriller, and caper adventure. We genuinely enjoy seeing Patience manipulating the system and coming out on top, even though she is essentially an amateur at this kind of life. But she quickly figures out how to launder her money as well as work around the police who are getting closer, in part because of the ineptitude of her accomplices.
It is also a story that reflects the desperation that might induce someone into crime. Patience had no plans of becoming a drug lord. But because her mother is about to be evicted from the nursing home, when the opportunity arose, she saw it as her way out of the financial hole she was in. But the film really doesn’t delve too deeply into the ethnic and socio-economic issues around drugs and drug policy. It is essentially an enjoyable ride through growing tensions and releases as the story plays out.
Mama Weed is showing in select theaters
Photos courtesy of Music Box Films.