Maybe you’re in the mood to practice your French, or you need a break from English for a bit –Call My Agent, better known as Dix Pour Cent in French, will give you a glimpse of all the chaos underneath the glamour that surrounds the French film industry.
Whats it about?
Based on a leading talent management firm in Paris called ASK (Agence de Samuel Karr), Call My Agent, created by television writer Fanny Herrero, started as a French television series that first released back in 2015 and is now available on Netflix. While Call My Agent is the English name, the original French title of the show, Dix Pour Cent, translates to ten percent in English – alluding to the commission that an agent in the film industry charges their client. Spanning across three seasons, this series might take a little longer to finish with each episode lasting around 50 minutes.
Shaken up by the sudden demise of their big boss aka the owner of their successful film agency, Samuel Karr, the clique of agents at ASK are thrown into frantic distress as they unriddle a plan to save the company from being sold. Amidst their egos, individual visions, and competitive power struggles within the organization – Andrea, Mathias, Gabriel, and Arlette (senior agents at this talent firm) also have to contend with the predicaments of their clients who are played by real-life renowned A-listers of French cinema themselves. Things get even crazier with the arrival of ASK’s new boss (in Season 2), Hicham Janowski (Assaad Bouab).
Call My Agent gives us a taste, or rather a bowlful of the mayhem and frenzy that sits obscure by the glitz and glamour of cinema. Based in Paris, the agents endure chaotic shenanigans daily and as the show progresses, the line separating their personal and professional lives becomes increasingly blurry. The aura that surrounds this series feels natural, as though we’re discreetly peeping through a window that faces the ‘BTS’ lives of these dazzling French celebrities. From Cecile de France to Nathalie Baye and Jean Dujardin – each of them plays a fictional, but a conceivable version of themselves.
What is remarkably impressive about the storyline is how each of these celebrities is sown seamlessly to make them integral parts of the show, and are not just galivanting about throwing tantrums. While one is distressed about her wrinkles marking the end of her career, another is a method actor who becomes so painfully attached to the on-screen character that he starts to live him; a lot of their difficulties and ineptness rooting from vanity and the longstanding insecurities that become inevitable when one is a celebrity. A narrative has been built around each of them, and it also allows us to get a coup d’oeil of the legendary Cannes Film Festival, where an actor suffers an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction minutes before getting up on stage. What Call My Agent wants you to know that ‘la vie en rose’ might just exist in reel, and not real life.
Let’s delve first into our pivotal agents at the firm. Andrea (Camille Cottin) is a fiercely ambitious woman and a competitive agent who always ensures she gets what she wants, even if that requires seemingly innocuous manipulation in the name of work. She’s emotionally distant – both, at work and in her personal life. She’s stern and hard to impress, which may be the cause for her assistants not being able to stick around for too long – many of them reduced to inconsolable tears as they barge out of the room and call her cruel. It thus doesn’t seem entirely surprising to learn that Andrea has pretty much steered clear of serious, committed romantic relationships and prefers detached, fun one-night sexual encounters, all until she starts to fall for the agency’s tax auditor.
Mathias Barneville (Thibault de Montalambert) is the established veteran at ASK who is conspicuously hungry for power and is perhaps just as fierce as Andrea, if not more. Suffering from a mild superiority complex, he is convinced that he deserves to be the boss in succession. His greed for power and influence impels him to be duplicitous, and deceive the others in the process.
Gabriel Sarda (Gregory Montel) is the softer, relatively meeker one among them, who has more of a passive approach towards his clients – primarily to avoid bruising their ego. He admittedly goes great lengths to ensure that his actors are happy. However, after he starts dating Sophia LePrince (Stefi Celma), the ASK receptionist (who’s also an aspiring actor), and offers to be her agent, we see how his overbearing insecurity ruins things for himself.
Hicham Janowski (Assaad Bouab) makes a grand entrance in the second season – who is almost as cold as he is rich. He’s a young multi-millionaire, who with his austere, brash ways, revolutionizes the work culture at ASK, much to the annoyance of others. He owns and 60% of the company and ensures that everybody knows that, by establishing his authority. As the season unfolds, we see his shared history with Andrea, and how their fiery mutual hatred induces a catastrophe of sorts.
Overall, I think the series does an excellent job of defining each of the characters so well, that while it tries to poke fun at the actors and their agents alike – you can’t help but also feel a tad bit sympathetic towards them both. And guess what? It’s already been slated for season four!