Saturday, September 5, 2009

280) Fat Girl (2001)

280) Fat Girl (2001) Dir: Catherine Breillat Date Released: October 2001 Date Seen: September 5, 2009 Rating: 2.5/5

Catherine Breillat was both very smart and frustratingly self-satisfied to make the drama of feminine sexuality in Fat Girl as blunt as it is. Breillat even goes so far as to defend her plodding film's forthrightness in the film through an interview where a lady artist* and Breillat stand-in proclaims that she has made sex an issue because it is a common, and hence deceptively simple, shared experience of men and women. The shallowness of that meta-declaration is fitting because the film's apparent lack of nuance is its most over-used means of provocation. Psychological probing between two sisters, Anais the high school coquette (Anais Reboux) and Elena (Roxane Mesquida) her chubby foil, is performed through bedside conversations because it, like Anais' bedside chatter with Fernando (Libero De Rienzo) her older--as in law school older--boyfriend, is a part of the characters' self-fashioning. It's also kind of tedious. After all, what's a provocateur's idea of realism worth (if you can tell me with a straight face after watching the film's windshield-shattering finale that Breillat is sincere, have I got a Lars Von Trier film for you!)? For me, Breillat's defense is just a lame excuse that she does have to engage the audience with nuanced characters or dialogue to make her point because it is, like her characters' psyche, teasingly self-evident.

Talk of sex in Fat Girl is likewise so direct because its supposed to titillate us into discussion of the sincerity of the characters. However I'd only be tempted to answer one of the film's many nagging central questions like, "Is Anais performing as virgin for Fernando and vice versa regarding his claims to be a sympathetic womanizer won over by this young girl's charms" if I cared about them as characters. I do not because these tiresome trials of the heart are the most involving and meticulously fleshed-out establishing scenes in the film.

Still, while I know I don't like the film's empty prodding, I feel stupid for not appreciating Fat Girl. I felt like Breillat's insertion of her opinion into the film was her way of challenging me to not appreciate what she was doing knowing what her terms are. Sorry, not biting. If you can't accomplish something truly challenging, it's pointless to say that that's the film's point and dismiss your detractors as fuddy duddies that just don't get it.

Which is simply not the case for me. I just wasn't involved by the film's more shocking scenes because neither Anais nor Elena ever really earned my interest. It's not that the fact they declare the ways by which we should analyze their actions through insistent declarative soliloquys, such as a pool scene where Elena acts out her fantasies of dating two men or another when she's in the woods and tells us that she loves fairy tales, but rather that Breillat never fleshes out those dynamics organically. Baiting the viewer with explicitness is fine but its not enough to get me excited unless it develops into something worth puzzling over.

*I am making as much a point of her character's sex as she does, just in case you're lost.

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