Directed by Paul Verhoeven
There are bad movies you know are going to disappoint walking in, and then there are bad movies that take you utterly by surprise. In the former category, Exhibit A includes the final two Mockingjay films. Terrible, yes, but one was pretty prepared for their awfulness. “Elle”, on the other hand, has been touted as a brilliant dark comedy, and not only garnered its star, Isabelle Huppert, a Golden Globe, but an Oscar nod over Amy Adams. But, and hear me when I tell you this, it is an absolute train-wreck of a film.
“Elle” has precisely two things going for it. Ms. Huppert’s performance, which given the gymnastics she must go through to make it even REMOTELY believable, is astonishing, and its often witty and clever dialogue.
And that ends the positive part of this review.
I’m loathe to explain why I hated the film so much, given that it might give important plot details away, but suffice it to say the entire film depends on a particular Verhoeven wet dream that resurfaces in his films again and again…a dream in which violence against women is somehow asked for by, or pleasing to, a woman. And that we, as audience members, can’t wait to see it perpetrated over and over…and over…and over again. It’s offensive, insulting and has NOTHING to do with any other part of the film. Eventually, it’s so ridiculous, that you become numb to it…and almost jovial about it, which is, of course, absurd. I wish I could say that’s what Verhoeven was going for, to catch us laughing at these crimes, but the ending of the film contradicts that to such an extent that you just leave puzzled, cringing and not a little furious (and that doesn’t even include the ridiculous coda that undermines everything ELSE that happens in the film).
The other performances are…fine…I guess. There’s no point in mentioning anyone else in the cast, as they are all thrown in to redirect your attention in this distasteful who-obviously-dunnit. The plot of this film may have the worst and most hackneyed plot transitions I have ever witnessed…worse even than Verhoeven’s previous epic fail, “Showgirls”…so how can we blame the actors?! (This last statement, by the way, is in no way a recommendation of the film as a camp masterpiece, as one might suggest for “Showgirls”)
And, in addition to being over long and over simple, it is WAY over scored. The music, which attempts to bring Bernard Herrmann-esque tension where there is none, is beyond intrusive and by the end I was literally screaming “enough with the strings!” Luckily I saw it with my friend in an entirely empty theater, so no one else had to hear my constant sighs and groans throughout – except my friend (next ticket’s on me, Amy).
I’m beginning to think that critics all over America have completely forgotten how to accurately review foreign films. To give such glowing kudos to both “Elle” and “Toni Erdmann” is kinda strange. To be fair, “Erdmann” is a MUUUUUUUCH better film, but still…I wouldn’t have put either film in the year’s top five. The only reason I can see for the glowing reviews of “Elle” is because critics gave the film WAY too much credit in their attempt to understand its purpose…or meaning…or whatever. They overthought.
Regardless, stay the hell away from the hell that’s “Elle”…unless you have a morbid curiosity to imagine what it would look like if the act of rape were…cute. For that, get drunk and watch “Showgirls”, instead. Or…don’t.