- Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
- Genre: Drama
- Cert: 18
- Details: France / 98 mins
Elles needs an audience that is shocked by such things. It needs a world where a film that explores female sexuality in a raw form is scandalous. The thing is this theme is commonplace – there's nothing shameful or outrageous about the goings on here and the story amounts to nothing more than a whispered taboo at a dinner party. Maybe that's a sad fact but there you have it.
Well-to-do Anne (Binoche) has a young son who wants nothing but play xBox and a teenage son who prefers bunking off to smoke pot than study. Her husband (de Lencquesaing) isn't much better, concerned only that dinner will be on the table on time this evening because his boss is coming around. But Anne has problems of her own: she is struggling to reach a deadline for Elle magazine on student escorts, Polish Alicja (Kulig), who is forced into the world to fund her education in France, and French Charlotte (Demoustier), who seems to be doing it for kicks and hides her job from her boyfriend. The more Anne interviews the girls, the more she becomes attracted to that way of life.
It's tough to care about what happens here. A rich woman struggles with a deadline for a glossy magazine and feels attracted to the world she's writing about appeals to about 0.001% of the world's population. Even if we dig beneath the surface and argue that it's really about the worldwide struggle to break free of society's norms and rules and embrace something once thought dark and mysterious, we're still in well-covered territory. Malgorzata Szumowska's film is too tame and too safe to be the film she wants it to be.
The writer-director doesn't help matters with some questionable scenes whose inclusion remains dubious: When Alicja's mother comes to stay in Alicja's plush Parisian apartment with all the glossy trimmings, the only clue that her student daughter might be acquiring money by illicit means is when she discovers the twelve inch silver dildo during a snoop. Way to go, Gumshoe.
It's all quite dull. Even Binoche, who again is turns in another dependable performance, masturbating feverishly on the bathroom floor fails to liven things up.
Review by Gavin Burke | 17:28 | Friday 20th April 2012 | Movie Review
Elles is a typically French film that asks some important questions about human nature and male-female relationships, but never really gets to the heart of the matter. Focusing on feminist writer Anne (the ever-talented Juliette Binoche), it explores the world of intelligent but mis-guided young women who sell their bodies to ageing married men to fund their tuition fees. Initially drawn to the women as material for her article, Anne finds herself moved by their desperation, which ultimatley affects her own marriage. Part of the problem with the film is the lack of any real resolution in the story. Director Malgorzata Szumowska carefully sets up the stories about the two student prostitutes but then doesn't bother to tie up loose ends. However, it's a good, moderately provocative film that makes you wonder why men are willing to buy sex and why women are willing to sell it.Posted 23:23 | Fri 20th Apr 2012
Prostitutes are not just victims of sex traffickers but young women who want to improve their standing of living through a third-level qualification. This film should be seen by all Irish public officials and public intellectuals as well as students who seek insight into the consequences of university charges on disadvantaged students.Posted 16:36 | Sat 12th May 2012
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