Fat Girl

Reviewed By Todd LaPlace
Posted 09/25/05 02:09:38

"An unsexy sex film? Thanks, Catherine Breillat!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The first hour of “Fat Girl” is a meandering, cynical take on sex from France’s foremost cinematic authority on the subject. The final fifteen minutes will turn everything on its head and should leave you with nightmares for years to come. Is it the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen? Is it the hardest film I’ve ever sat through? A resounding yes on both counts. Is it also one of the most thought-provoking movies I’ve ever seen? Would I recommend it as a one-time viewing experience? Abso-freakin-lutely.

John Waters does kink and Todd Solondz does taboo. Catherine Breillat does sex; straight-forward, graphic, hardcore sex. But despite its scant 83 minutes being full of nudity and sexuality, there is nothing erotic about either element in Catherine Breillat’s “Fat Girl.” So before you think you’re walking into a Shannon Tweed flick or something with the words “pajama,” “bikini” or “car wash” in the title (or any combo of the three), Breillat’s version of sex is one of the most violent, unpleasant experiences in which one can partake.

With “Fat Girl,” Breillat turns her voyeuristic eye to the uncomfortable world of teenage sex, with uncomfortable being the key word. On vacation with her family, 15-year-old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) meets and is seduced by Fernando (Libero De Rienzo), a vacationing Italian law student. Wanting to push the boundaries of her budding sexuality, Elena sneaks away to make out in sea-side cafes and walk hand-in-hand in local forests, and invites her new lover into her bed, all under the careful eye of Elena’s roommate and 12-year-old sister Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux). The younger, titular girl proceeds to make sport of her sister’s naïve notions of sex, especially when Fernando sweet talks his way into both oral and anal sex as a “proof of love.”

More mature than her sister’s school-girl notions of love and romance — Elena is quick to throw around the L-word with Fernando, who’s less enthusiastic about throwing it back — Anaïs decides sex is not something to be fooled around with, and vows to lose her virginity to someone she doesn’t love, to get it out of the way before she starts looking for romance. Alas, despite her endless pining and practice — a threesome in the pool between Anaïs, the diving board and the ladder is tragically priceless — it is her sister that always steals the spotlight, which Breillat suggests is the reason for the younger’s non-stop eating. When Elena first meets/makes out with Fernando, Anaïs comforts herself with a banana split, and after the first late-night rendezvous, she cries and stuffs herself with bread. She’s anxious for her first sexual experience and is upset that her shallow sister accomplishes the feat first. When the pair goes shopping with their mother, Anaïs tries to steal a smidge of her sister’s sex appeal by buying the same dress in a different color, but it ultimately looks frumpy, while Elena’s second-choice dress is small and slinky.

Ultimately, no one gets away unscathed in this movie. The smarmy Fernando flakes on Elena after giving her a ring (which is reclaimed by his mother), and all the details of the illicit tryst are laid bare. The mother freaks and the three head for home (their father was called back on business, so knows nothing of these revelations). While this may seem like a complete film, it is far from over, as the film takes a dramatic, unexpected, unnerving turn. It can be suggested that the film serves to fulfill everyone’s spoken desires, just as it can also be suggested the ending is merely the elaborate fantasy of a sexually-frustrated tween who ends the movie with the line, “Don’t believe me if you don’t want to.” No matter how you read the shocker ending, it is almost the most honest portrayal of sex we’ve seen all movie. Fernando offers half-truths and pretty words to work his way into Elena’s bed, while the ending offers no such manipulation. If it weren’t for the sheer horror that comprises the final fifteen minutes, it might be clearer who the real villain of the picture is. But no matter which way you lean, just be prepared to step into Breillat’s twisted world where nothing is free and absolutely nothing — not even graphic adolescent sex — can ever be simple.

It’s easy to ask yourself questions by the time the movie’s done. Unless you’re incredibly disturbed, you will be upset by the cinematic experience you’ve just had. But it ultimately remains a satisfying experience. But don’t think I’m ever going to watch that horror show ending again.

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