In Reviews

November 28th, 2016




Paul Verhoeven, the groundbreaking director of movies such as the erotic thriller Basic Instinct, begins his newest film- Elle, with the rape of our main character by a masked man. In the distance, the tension is cut when we see the house cat watching on, but it’s what comes after that is equally shocking. The victim- Michele (Played by the powerful Isabelle Huppert), dusts herself off from the shock of the assault and picks up the phone to order food. She doesn’t call the police or reach out for help, but goes about her way, taking a shower to wash the blood off from her private area, and putting herself back together. It’s early in the film, but the message is clear, our lead character is someone who is in control of this situation. Men cannot hold the power they wield, in the shockingly confident- Elle.

There is a lot of complexities to the story, based on the novel by Philippe Djian and adapted by David Birke. After the rape has happened, Michele proceeds with her very busy life. A stop to her place of employment, working at a video game programing company, dinner later with her ex-husband (Charles Berling) and friends. She must check in on her older, but still sexually active mother (Judith Magre), and also deal with her son (Jonas Bloquet) whose on the verge of marrying a woman who takes advantage of him.

Back at her job, she is the boss, and there is plenty of misogynist viewpoints from her male employees. It’s at this point, where the breadcrumbs of discovering who her possible assailant begin to drop. She receives messages that she is being watched. It could be her co-worker, or is it her handsome neighbor across the street Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) with his beautiful wife? What begins to brew emotionally for Michele is the sexual desire she has for this man next-door. She watches him from her window. She pleasures herself, but is this a direct result of her attack? Is she aroused by the fear? Or does she actually have an arousal for being dominated?

These are some of the thematic questions that Verhoeven isn’t afraid to ask. Elle is a very unconventional film in all forms of gender roles. It is lead by a powerful veteran performance from Huppert, who has complete control of every moment. Her character pushes the limits of sexual desires and steals the power that men believe they hold over women. It will make the narrative uncomfortable for some, while sending a resounding message to the conservative world that believes a woman should know her place.

Michele becomes armed with the type of confidence that could invite problems and swat them away. She preps herself with a miniature axe, fires rounds off at the firing range, and pursues the potential lover across the street. Where Elle takes the audience for its conclusion, I will not divulge any more, but it’s a must-see movie of 2016. Verhoeven has found a new ways to blur the lines of gender roles as he did in Basic Instinct or Showgirls, while displaying the battle between the opposite sexes. The only conversation here though, is about Huppert. She is a veteran actor that is challenging the perception and boundaries that women have in acting. Her sexuality is something that transcends time, proving you are never the right or wrong age to make a sexual thriller.

Elle will be viewed as disturbing by some, daring by others, and has a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination for Huppert. The best part about all of that? In a world where male characters wear capes and cowls, finally we have a movie that gives us a fierce female lead. Michele is a bad as that you don’t want to mess with.


Written by: Leo Brady

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