The first reviews of Johnny Depp’s new film are in Jeanne du Barry after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday (May 16).
Maïwenn’s French-language film has been controversially chosen to open the festival this year.
The biographical film follows working-class Madame du Barry (played by Maïwenn) as she climbs the social ladder of 18th-century France. Depp plays King Louis XV, who invites Jeanne to Versailles, much to the dismay of the French court.
Since his failed lawsuit in 2018 against The sun – in which a judge later ruled that the tabloid’s description of him as a “wife beater” was “essentially true” – Depp failed to land a role in a major US film.
Jeanne du Barry is seen by some as a comeback of sorts following the actor’s 2022 trial win over ex-wife Amber Heard. The jury concluded that Heard had defamed Depp by implying he abused her in 2018 Washington Post op ed.
However, reviews for Maïwenn’s film were mediocre at best. Critics hinted it might not be quite the triumphant return Depp was hoping for.
Below is a summary of the reviews.
The Telegraph – two stars
“After Hulk Hogan, Depp is possibly the least suited actor to play an ancien regime monarch,” writes Robbie Collins.
“Admittedly, his French isn’t too bad, but his regal dignity is absent and he only feels truly at home in the role during the occasional clown fit, which does little to sell his cast as an inspired choice…”
“… Depp is hardly the first Hollywood outcast to find work in Europe, but it would be an overstatement to say that this is the first spark of a glorious comeback.”
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evening standard – two stars
“One has to think of Depp, that golden young man whose looks may have faded but whose charm is undiminished here,” writes Jo-Ann Titmarsh.
“After movies like Mortdecai and the Pirates franchise is great to see Depp in subtle and quiet mode – more from Colonel Joll Waiting for the barbarians and less Jack Sparrow – and in French at that. Yet this offers little to the already rich genre of costume drama set in the declining years of monarchical dynasties, and while Jeanne romps in a free-spirited manner, it offers no new perspective on a historical period.”
The times – three stars
“Depp creates a forlorn character of sadness and quiet regret, mostly through small looks and disappointed grimaces. Yes, when he speaks, he speaks French throughout. And yes, despite seemingly assiduously working with a dialect trainer, he speaks French like a French-speaking American,” writes Kevin Maher.
Maher adds that Jeanne du Barry is “occasionally too tasteful for itself”. But it’s also mature and grounded and probably the best recovery tool Depp will get.”
The guard– three stars
“The film’s underlying silliness is part of its readability, although Maïwenn may never be quite sure how to deal with Depp. Without that spectacular casting – although Depp is certainly good enough not to be just a stunt casting – Louis would be Bradshaw.
“It’s an entertaining spectacle that’s only partially aware of its own vanity.”
IndieWire – B-
“Although the American star appears exclusively in French and has ample screen time, he leaves an oddly sparse impression, offering a dark and subdued twist that underscores his general reputation in often intriguing ways,” writes Ben Croll.
“Even the cast – some would say stunt-casting – of Johnny Depp as the king offers a few exciting moments at the beginning and then mostly yawns, with Depp dishing out what feels like a dozen lines in respectable French in total while otherwise remaining silent. His performance isn’t bad, nor is Maïwenn in the lead role. But the two, like the film, rarely get us excited,” writes Jordan Mintzer.
“For all the recent controversy surrounding Depp, not to mention Maïwenn herself, the result of their collaboration is a lovely historical piece that feels both shallow and superficial, and is certainly far from it scandal.”
Jeanne du Barry does not yet have a UK release date.