Jeanne Du Barry Premiered At Cannes, And Critics Have Thoughts About Johnny Depp’s First Post-Trial Movie

 Johnny Depp in Jeanne du Barry.
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The defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard was one of the defining events of 2022, and after a six-week courtroom circus that included screaming fans and therapy alpacas, the actor is moving forward with his acting career. More specifically, he’s moving forward with Jeanne du Barry, a French period drama starring Maïwenn (who also directs) as the title character who begins a scandalous romance with King Louis XV (Depp). The movie premiered May 16 at the Cannes Film Festival, and the critics are weighing in on Depp’s post-trial return to acting.

While some thought it controversial to show Johnny Depp’s new movie as the opener of the esteemed event, trade outlet Variety reports that the French festivalgoers welcomed him back with a seven-minute standing ovation. So what are the critics saying about the film and his performance? Let’s take a look at the reviews.

Peter Debruge of Variety finds Johnny Depp “decent, if distracting” opposite Maïwenn in what he calls a super-tame portrait of King Louis XV’s last mistress. The review states:

Depp delivers his lines in well-turned French, wearing fine powder and a stiff white wig, and yet he seems strangely uncomfortable in the role — adequate but not especially engaged. Depp’s the kind of player who delivers practically every performance with a wink, so it’s odd that even when his Louis is actually supposed to be winking (at Jeanne), the sparkle isn’t there. That curious lack of complicity saps the chemistry we crave between the two leads.

Damon Wise of Deadline similarly calls Jeanne du Barry the “PG version” of the courtesan’s story, noting that the vignette format makes the movie feel more like watching a life in retrospect, rather than the outrageous love affair of the title character. As for Johnny Depp, the critic makes note of his visual appeal in a role light on speaking parts, writing:

Johnny Depp makes his largely wordless debut at about the 20-minute mark with a grand entrance that’s both impressive and unsettling, approximating the effect of putting Edward Scissorhands’ gothic lipstick and powder onto the bloated, weary face of Apocalypse Now’s Captain Kurtz. Will this be a Brando-esque cameo? Surprisingly not; Louis XV is here for the duration. The accuracy of his accent is for Francophones to debate, and his role is suspiciously light on dialogue. But Maïwenn leans heavily into Depp’s chops as a visual actor.

Ben Croll of IndieWire grades the movie a B-, emphasizing that Maïwenn is the star of this film, not Johnny Depp — which is sure to disappoint some but should be no surprise, given the movie’s title. The critic goes on to say that Depp leaves a “strangely scant impression” in the movie that runs out of steam awfully fast. The review concludes:

More frustrating than a misfire, Jeanne du Barry suffers instead from near total myopia, roaring to life with wit and ingenuity when the constellations align and the lead’s star can shine, and dwindling before the risk of any possible eclipse. The film burns hot and bright — and quickly flames out.

“Tasteful” might not be the first adjective you expect to describe a story of a torrid love affair, but that’s what Jordan Mintzer of THR says about Jeanne du Barry following its Cannes premiere. Despite jaw-dropping costumes, the casting of Johnny Depp and Maïwenn’s own assault allegations, the film itself is kind of bland, the critic says:

Even the casting — some would say stunt casting — of Johnny Depp as the king offers a few early thrills and then mostly yawns, with Depp dishing out what feels like a total of a dozen lines in respectable French, while otherwise remaining mute. His performance isn’t bad, and neither is Maïwenn’s in the lead role. But the two of them, like the movie, rarely get our pulse racing. With all the recent controversy surrounding Depp, not to mention Maïwenn herself, the result of their collaboration is a handsome period piece that feels both flat and shallow, and certainly far from any scandale.

Steve Pond of The Wrap agrees that the movie has lots of style but little energy, opining that Jeanne du Barry isn’t strong enough to grab attention away from the real-world headlines of its leading actors. The critic continues:

That’s what dominated the Cannes news cycle leading up to the opening-night screening of a movie that just isn’t potent enough to grab any headlines on its own. Jeanne du Barry, shot in 35mm in locations that included the actual Palace of Versailles, is handsome but largely inert; it’s got lots of style but precious little energy, leaving it to an ill-advised narrator to take us through the story and drop bon mots like ‘Aren’t girls who care for nothing ready for anything?’ and ‘What good is innocence if others harbor guilty desires for you?’

Johnny Depp’s return to the big screen following the huge trial with his ex-wife was certainly a talker on Cannes’ opening night, regardless of the tepid responses from critics. Jeanne du Barry hit theaters in France on May 16 — the same day as its Cannes premiere — however, there is no information regarding a theatrical run in the U.S. at this point. To see what is coming to the big screen soon, you can check out our 2023 Movie Release Schedule.