Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña Deliver Cannes’ First Hit With Trans Gangster Musical ‘Emilia Perez’

Jacques Audiard returned to Cannes on Saturday night to introduce the world to Emilia Perez, which received a rapturous response from the audience, who gave it a nine-minute standing ovation. After Audiard took the mic to speak in French, the standing ovation resumed for another minute or so.

The 10th film from the French auteur — his sixth film in the main competition — stars Zoe Saldaña as a frustrated lawyer, Selena Gomez as a drug lord’s wife, Édgar Ramírez as a dangerous love interest and Karla Sofía Gascón as the cartel kingpin who longs to escape a life of crime and become the woman he’s always dreamed of becoming. And surprise — it’s a musical.

As the credits roled, there were whoops and hollers and shouts of “Bravo,” even before the lights came up. Saldaña and Gascón were in tears, while Gomez was visibly moved, covering her face.

Reviews broke as the cast was seated inside the Grand Lumiére Theatre at the Palais with The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney writing that “there’s an unforced current of Almodóvarian humor, along with moments of melodrama, noir, social realism, a hint of telenovela camp and a climactic escalation into suspense, ultimately touched by tragedy.” He praised Gascon as a “wonderful discovery” and wrote that Saldaña has “never been better.”

As for Gomez, Rooney wrote that the veteran star “plays both the hard edges and the vulnerability of a woman whose life has been uprooted twice and who needs to find her own happiness.” Fans of the pop star will also be stoked to learn that Gomez sings several songs in the musical film as does Saldaña, who also has a memorable solo dance break during a fundraiser.

Emilia Perez marks something of a triumphant return for Audiard, winner of the Palme d’Or with Dheepan in 2015. His other credits include Paris, 13th District, The Sisters Brothers, Rust and Bone, A Prophet, Read My Lips, A Self-Made Hero and See How They Fall. Buoyed by the star power of his cast, Emilia Perez was among the more hotly anticipated titles of the weekend schedule.

The film is also notable in that it is one of three films in the competition that is produced by the upstart Saint Laurent Productions, a film division of the luxury fashion house. Creative director Anthony Vaccarello produced Emilia Perez and shepherded the film’s costumes. Other producers on the film include Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux and Valerie Schermann. Vaccarello attended Saturday night’s premiere with longtime house ambassador Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello and Charlotte Gainsbourg attend the Emilia Perez premiere at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2024.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

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