Elle Review: Female Empowering B-Movie Bliss

Photo Credit:https://www.yahoo.com/movies/paul-verhoeven-critically-acclaimed-much-000000524.html

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a lot of things. Part black comedy. Park female reclaimed sexploitation flick. Part home invasion thriller. Part Thelma & Louise. This ruthless combination can be fun, devastating, and utterly badass, sometimes all at once. For its genre-bending, tone-skewing ambition, Elle is one of the most unique films of the year.

Starring legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert as Michele, our heroine, the film quickly demonstrates its powerhouse appeal. The opening scene sees Michele horrifically raped in her home by a masked assailant. Afterwards, she goes about her day, matter of factly lying about her bruises in a way where we see that, despite the traumatizing attack, she isn’t all that affected by it. Verhoeven strikes an initially jarring tone that becomes more and more infectious as we learn about Michele. She’s a video game designer who demands more blood and sex in the works she puts her name on. She’s sleeping with her best friend’s husband and flirting with her married neighbor. She also has a widely known family tragedy involving her father that she sometimes treats as if she didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas. Elle is as dark a comedy as has ever been written, and all the better for it.

But as the problem introduced in the opening scene doesn’t go away, Michele takes steps to investigate the man who has wronged her, though not for the reasons we might think. Elle is most definitely a revenge thriller, but one that more so aims to show how insignificant men can be in a woman’s life. The film get credit for flipping genders here where the history of cinema has mostly shown us the opposite.

Best of all, however, is Huppert, who’s having an absolute ball as Michele, scowling into the camera and generally maneuvering like she’s on top of the world no matter what happens to her. It’s a courageous, controversial role, but one that only an actor of such talents could pull off so mercilessly without losing her touch of humanity.

But a film like this does sadly have its limits. Elle may be a feminist, empowering grindhouse flick, but it’s still a grindhouse flick. That’s okay, movies like this absolutely deserve to be made. Just don’t expect it to alter the genetic code of cinema, even if it might make it more deservingly diverse. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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