Critics Call Johnny Depp's Cannes Movie a 'Royal Disappointment' in First Reviews: 'Mostly Yawns'

One film critic said of Johnny Depp and the movie Jeanne Du Barry, "It would be a stretch to say this feels like the first spark of a glorious comeback"

Stéphanie Branchu Johnny Depp in <em>Jeanne du Barry</em> (2023)
Stéphanie Branchu Johnny Depp in Jeanne du Barry (2023)

Critics are weighing in on Johnny Depp's new movie after it opened the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday.

Jeanne Du Barry, the French-language film directed by and starring Maïwenn, features Depp, 59, as King Louis XV and serves as the Oscar nominee's return to movies one year after his controversial defamation trial with ex-wife Amber Heard.

In the film (now in theaters in France but with no U.S. release plan yet), Maïwenn plays Jeanne Vaubernier, a working-class woman who "uses her intelligence and allure to climb the rungs of the social ladder one by one," per a synopsis. She eventually "becomes the favorite of King Louis XV, who, unaware of her status as courtesan, regains through her his appetite for life."

Then, "they fall madly in love. Against all propriety and etiquette, Jeanne moves to Versailles, where her arrival scandalizes the court."

Related:Amber Heard Supporters Protest Cannes Film Festival for Inclusion of Johnny Depp Movie

The first reviews arrived Tuesday afternoon. The Hollywood Reporter critic Jordan Mintzer said Depp's casting "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," wrote Mintzer. "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."

Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Johnny Depp with <em>Jeanne du Barry</em> cast
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Johnny Depp with Jeanne du Barry cast

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For IndieWire, Ben Croll added, "Though performing wholly in French and given ample screen time, the American star [Depp] leaves a strangely scant impression, offering a dim and muted turn that plays off his wider reputation in often fascinating ways."

The Evening Standard's Jo-Ann Titmarsh wrote in a review that following Depp's movies like 2015's Mortdecai and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, it is "great to see Depp in subtle and quiet mode — more Colonel Joll of Waiting for the Barbarians and less Jack Sparrow — and in French to boot."

A headline for the Evening Standard review noted, however, that "Depp makes a good Louis XV but [Jeanne Du Barry] is a right royal disappointment."

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty

U.K. outlet The Telegraph's critic Robbie Collin said Depp "may be the actor least suited — after Hulk Hogan — to playing an ancien régime monarch." Collin continued about Depp: "True, his French is not too shabby, but his regal gravitas is nonexistent, and he only truly looks at home in the role during occasional bouts of clowning, which hardly help sell his casting as an inspired choice."

"Depp is hardly the first Hollywood outcast to find work in Europe, but it would be a stretch to say this feels like the first spark of a glorious comeback," wrote Collin.

Variety critic Peter Debruge wrote of Depp's performance, "For his part, 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."

About Jeanne Du Barry, a source told PEOPLE in April that "filming was challenging, but Johnny is excited about the comeback."

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