Nicole M. Campbell is a KFI editrix. She isn’t going to count how many movies she sees this year. Deal with it. This week, the Girl on Film gives us her review of “Elle,” nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.
No mainstream director does creepy carnal better than Paul Verhoeven. The Dutch director has given us "Basic Instinct," with the no-underwear shot seen 'round the world, as well as the botched but beloved booby blockbuster, "Showgirls."
Verhoeven has upped the sophistication quotient with "Elle," starring French actress Isabelle Huppert, perhaps the bravest actress working on either side of the Atlantic. She plays Michele Leblanc, a woman who gets raped in her home. She deals with the aftermath with all the cool detachment she displays in all her relationships including co-owner of a video game development company and mistress to her business partner's husband.
But that seemingly unaffected attitude belies her desire for revenge. The means to that end are classic Verhoeven. Huppert's character finds out who raped her, then indulges in a quasi-relationship with the guy. It's all a setup for the ultimate punishment.
Along the way, the plot meanders all over the place. There's Michele's affair, her emotional attachment to her ex-husband, her man-child adult son raising a baby with his annoying, demanding girlfriend (with apologies to the late, great Michael Jackson, the kid is not his son.) Let's not forget the fact Michele's dad was a serial killer, her mom is a cougar, she has a crush on her neighbor and is trying to find out who pranked her at the office.
"Elle" is getting a lot of awards buzz and it's certainly only for Huppert's performance. The various story arcs muddle the meat of the movie. What should have been a straight sexual thriller drags on and loses focus. Huppert's beautiful winter wardrobe and the fabulous French dinner parties her character throws aren't enough to save this sorry sexual story. "Showgirls" gave more bang for the buck.