Published on December 23rd, 2016 | by Neil Jordan0
Greetings & Salutations Fellow Movie Fanatics ….
The end of 2016 is just a few short weeks away. That being said, studios and filmmakers across the world are rolling out the few remaining big budget blockbusters and potential breakout independent masterpieces before year’s end. Among them is today’s film for your consideration. A film that has already received international acclaim when it premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival as well as several awards including the Gotham Independent Film Award For Best Actress, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, a New York Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, and a Golden Globe Award Nomination for Best Actress for the film’s star, celebrated French film and stage actress Isabelle Huppert. The film would later go on to be selected as the French entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.
‘Elle’ ( meaning ‘her’ or ‘she’ in French) is an internationally co-produced psychological thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven. Yes, THAT Paul Verhoeven of ‘RoboCop’ , ‘Basic Instinct’, ‘Starship Troopers’, ‘Showgirls’, and ‘Total Recall’ fame. Hold on a second. Before you take his track record of recent works into account just hear me out. The film is based on the 2012 novel “Oh …. ” by French/Armenian author Philippe Djian which won the prix Interallie literary award for a novel written by journalist. ‘Elle’ is Verhoeven’s first French language film and his first film since 2006’s ‘Black Book’.
The film stars Isabelle Huppert as business woman Michele Leblanc. Mother, divorce, and head of a video game company who is viciously attacked and raped in her home late one night by an unknown assailant wearing a ski mask. Rather than report this to the police, she quickly ‘cleans up the mess’ and carries on with life as usual. The film also features several subplots that intricately weave into the film’s main storyline. Michele has a son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) who is engaged to his unfaithful and domineering girlfriend Josie (Alice Isaac). Their relationship is strained due to Vincent’s lack of direction and his refusal to break off the relationship with Josie who is pregnant by the man she cheated on Vincent with. Michele’s relationship with her mother is also strained due to her mother’s narcissism and preference for younger men. A point of increasing animosity between Michelle and her mother is the fact that Michelle refuses her mother’s request to visit Michelle’s father, a convicted cereal killer, in prison. Meanwhile, Michele is carrying on an affair with Robert (Christian Berkele). The husband of her business partner and best friend Anna (Anne Consigny) while at the same time developing a fixation with Patrick (Laurent Lafitte). A banker and husband of Michele’s religiously devout neighbor Rebecca (Virginie Efira). All this, combined with the turmoil going on within Michele’s company make her reluctant to involve the police in anyway.
Soon Michele grows suspicious of all the men in her life and begins to ‘stalk in reverse’ those in particular might have the strongest motivation to do her harm. At first she suspects Kurt (Lucas Prisor). A particularly resentful employee of her company and even her ex-husband Richard (Charles Berling) who Michele inadvertently pepper-sprays while he was hiding outside her home checking on her safety. Despite pleas from Richard, her friends, and fearing another media frenzy similar to the one that occurred during her childhood when her father was arrested Michele continues with life as usual on the surface. In secret though, Michele is arming herself and using her company’s resources in an attempt to find her attacker and exact her own vision of retribution in this twisted cat and mouse game.
This film is by far one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in the last few years. In my opinion, we here in America don’t partake in enough of the films our neighbors in other countries have to offer. This film doesn’t ‘play it safe’. The story plays out in a realistic and believable manner. This is another one of those rare stories where there are really no ‘happy endings’ in the situation such as depicted in the film. It’s harsh, it’s in your face, it’s plausible, the innocent unfortunately suffer along with the guilty. Punishing the guilty is never enough and sometimes harms the victim(s) even more over the course of time. The film is rated R for depictions of physical and sexual violence and clocks in just past 2 hours. If you’re searching for a well written, well directed, and even better acted film. This psychological thriller is definitely for you. I expect this film will continue to garner more acclaim and even more awards. I’m giving this one 4 out of 5 stars.