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How to Be a Good Wife 2020

How to Be a Good Wife | La bonne épouse

How to Be a Good Wife-La bonne epouse
How to Be a Good Wife-La bonne epouse

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About the How to Be a Good Wife 💬

Paulette Van der Beck (Juliette Binoche) and her husband Robert Van der Beck (François Berléand) have been running the housekeeping school of Bitche in Alsace for many years. Their mission is to train teenage girls to become the perfect housewives at a time when women were expected to be subservient to their husbands. After the sudden death of her husband, Paulette discovers that the school is on the verge of bankruptcy and has to take on her responsibilities. But while preparations are underway for the best housekeeping competition TV show, she and her lively students start questioning their beliefs as the nation-wide protests of May 1968 transform society around them.

Reunited with her first love, André, and with the help of her eccentric stepsister Gilberte Van der Beck (Yolande Moreau) and strict nun Marie-Thérèse (Noémie Lvovsky), Paulette joins forces with the schoolgirls to overcome their suppressed status and become liberated women.

HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE is a humorous and satirical take on a universal story about solidarity and gender equality.


I still remember the young couples' guide that lived in a drawer in the kitchen where, in the late 60s, my mother presided, whereas my father would read the paper in the living room while waiting to come to the dinner table.

That's how it was before '68. Women didn't yet have their say about certain centuries-old rules that dictated that a man should take a wife "to keep his household in order", which said it all.

In addition to doing the grocery shopping, coming up with the menus, and dressing us, my mother also oversaw our homework and, while making dinner in the kitchen, would have us recite our lessons to her. Afterwards, we would help her set the table. But most importantly, I remember that my father - because he earned money - never lifted a finger, and would instead wait for us to call out "dinner!" to come sit at the table and serve himself first - and copiously - which infuriated my mother.

After dinner, my father would go back to the living room while we cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher that my mother had made him buy, after great insistence, because we still thought that it was an extravagance that would exhaust all of the planet's water resources. When she finally joined us in front of the television, which we got very late, the film had, of course, already begun.

I also remember that mother would occasionally recruit what she referred to as "young little girls" to look after us during vacations.

One could find those young girls in what were called housekeeping schools. They were always young girls from humble backgrounds, and usually from peasant stock.

In the 60s, France was still quite rural, and for these young girls, home economics schools were a means of escaping the harsh destiny of a farmer's wife through better marriage or a housemaid position in a large city. Most of the young girls that my mother hired had never seen the ocean. That has stayed in my memory because that was how it was in the 60s. Many men and women never ventured outside their counties.

The film is set in Alsace-Moselle during the 1967-68 school year, with most of the story unfolding at the Bitche home economics school on the German border.

At the end of the 60s, home economics schools - which, for over one hundred years, had trained armies of homemakers, housekeepers and nannies all over France - were living out their final years. It was the end of an era; one wherein there still existed a type of education reserved strictly for girls with the sole objective of confining them to the domestic arena with no prospects other than that of serving men and families. There, young students from humble backgrounds learned to manage a home and a budget, and to mend their husband's underwear and socks - but also how to butcher a rabbit, stuff a bird, scour a wooden floor, recover the bottom of a saucepan, as well as the art of accommodating leftovers...

It is in this declining, antiquated system still clinging, with grace and sincerity, to its arcane vision of society that our heroine, Paulette Van Der Beck, presides with the utmost seriousness.

By overseeing the family housekeeping institution, Paulette is perpetuating a model that suffocates her, because her awakening won't come until after the death of her husband, Robert, when she reconnects with André, her first love that she thought had died in the war.

Is it the rekindling of first love or the winds of freedom blowing in from Paris (the film ends in May of '68) that will enable Paulette, at the age of fifty, to experience her first orgasm and to begin questioning everything?

When the film begins, women have just won the right to open bank accounts in their own names, to work without prior permission from their husbands (the "loi 1965"), and to take the pill (the "loi Neuwirth 1967") - not to mention everything that was still up for discussion: abortion, the notion of equal pay...

Of course, seen from the home economics school in the nether regions of Alsace-Moselle, the contrast with growing modernity is all the more striking.

The art of mending underwear suddenly seems pathetic and antiquated to Paulette and her young apprentice housekeepers. It is in coming to this surreal, absurd and comical realization that our heroines will begin to struggle - and not without challenges - to obtain their desires and exist freely.

There were so many of these home economics schools that it seems incredible to think not a single one survived May of '68. Some were transformed into agricultural high schools; but others were erased from the French landscape altogether in less than two years.

Little by little, the patriarch has become an endangered species. Men have become used to sharing household chores with their wives - who also work - and taking care of the children. This unconscious dressage, which for centuries targeted their wives with a view to making them their slaves, now seems like part of another world. A world that, for me, was just yesterday, since I knew it very well.

And yet...

For several years, the upswing in communitarianism and the influence of the far-right have enjoined women to once again leave the public domain and return to their households. This of course means that they can no longer work or control their fertility, and can no longer be free. This leap backwards has slipped insidiously into numerous debates. Who would have thought that the right to an abortion would once again be up for discussion at the national assembly just months after the 2017 presidential election?

Martin Provost

How to Be a Good Wife Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Martin Provost

Writing Credits

Martin Provost

Séverine Werba


Juliette Binoche

Yolande Moreau

Noémie Lvovsky

Edouard Baer

François Berléand

Marie Zabukovec

Anamaria Vartolomei

Lily Taieb

Pauline Briand


Music by

Grégoire Hetzel

Cinematography by

Guillaume Schiffman

Genres: Comedy, Drama

Country: France

How to Be a Good Wife Official Trailer


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