The Billionaire, the Butler & the Boyfriend

The Billionaire, the Butler & the Boyfriend

A captivating documentary about how the world’s richest women were embroiled in a nationwide political scandal

7.0

TV Show

France
French
Crime, Documentary
2023

TLDR

It’s like a glossy magazine spread or, if you like, a somewhat polished tabloid article in docuseries form: all fluff but nonetheless fun.

What it's about

The three-part docuseries tells us how France’s infamous Bettencourt affair, which alleged that L’Oreal billionaire heiress Liliane Bettencourt committed tax fraud and illegally funded political parties, all started with a testy mother-daughter relationship.

The take

The animation can sometimes be distracting, but for the most part, The Billionaire is a well-edited docuseries about a deeply intriguing affair. The use of real-life tape recordings (secretly made by the Bettencourts’ butler) lends it an authentic air, while the re-enactments remain tastefully shot throughout. They’re accurate but anonymous, and never cheesy in the way others like it normally are. The framing is somewhat sensationalized, but that’s to be expected in covering scandals of this scale. What is surprising is how the filmmakers manage to bring everything back to Liliane and her daughter Françoise Bettencourt Meyers. By centering on their fractured, complicated relationship, this documentary about France’s corrupt elite somehow feels relatable and universal in its own way. 

What stands out

The animation, for better or worse, steals the spotlight whenever it’s around. It’s not that it’s inherently bad, in fact, it looks beautiful—the faces of the main players texturized in paper money—but it reaches diminishing returns at a certain point, since it’s constantly reused and backed with that predictable ka-ching sound effect each time. It’s all about money we get it! 

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