Director, co-writer and star Valerie Bruni Tedeschi's Actresses is a portrait of modern life upon the wicked stage -- it's slight, but light and ultimately charming, revolving around the concerns and confusions of stage actress Marcelline (Tedeschi). Marcelline's reaching 40, and she's just successful enough as an actress that the question of if she should -- or shouldn't -- stay in the business stings each time she asks it. She's working -- playing Natalia Petrovna in Turgenev's A Month in the Country at a smaller theater -- but she'd really like to be a mother, be in love, be more successful. But her prayers to the Virgin Mary go unanswered, and every thing she does pretty much makes things worse.
Actresses is a tour de force for Tedeschi -- she has the true commedienne's willingness to look very, very bad in pursuit of a laugh. (A moment where a suddenly ill Tedeschi is saying to passers-by that she's fine -- while she's vomiting -- is a great demonstration of the above, and as uncomfortable as it is funny.) Marcelline's faced with possibilities -- her young co-star Eric (Lous Garrel) has feelings for her, and she keeps on seeing a vision of Natalia Petrovna (Valeria Golino) who offers life advice and performance notes. There are sub-plots aplenty -- stage manager Nathalie (Noemie Lvovsky) has known Marcelline for years, and takes time between dealing with her wrecked marriage and thwarted ambitions to comment on Marcelline's flailing. Add in the swirl of actors and backstage staff, and you get a great portrait of a theater troupe as family -- wildly dysfunctional and bizarre, but a family nonetheless.