This is a French film with subtitles that received terrific reviews. Apparently, I didn’t “get it,” and neither did Robin. Other than the wonderful performances by Isabelle Huppert (as Michelle) and her pet cat (a beautiful Russian Blue), I didn’t enjoy it. The film is written and directed by one of my favorite directors, Paul Verhoeven (“Total Recall” – 1990 and “Basic Instinct” – 1992) and is adapted from the novel by Philippe Dijan.
The movie starts out swinging, with Michelle getting brutally raped! Her cat stoically witnesses the sordid scene, but doesn’t even lift a paw in her defense! Although obviously shaken to the core, she doesn’t call the police and just carries on with her normal life. (She has very negative feelings towards the police, the reasons for which are revealed later in the film.)
Michelle is a wealthy, successful businesswoman who owns a video game company. Her life, however, is quite complex. She is divorced, although she still seems to love her ex-husband. She has a conflictual relationship with her under-achieving son – who is seriously involved with an abusive, borderline-personality, pregnant girlfriend – and disgusted with her narcissistic mother, who is dating a gigolo.
The first 90 minutes or so is an interesting mystery-thriller. Who is the rapist (there are a few possibilities), will Michelle figure it out and then get her revenge? Michelle discovers the identity of the rapist, but then the film deteriorates into a twisted, confused, and psychodynamically unrealistic mess. Assuming the book is faithful to the novel, I have no clue what Dijan was trying to convey.
Unfortunately, it’s just an OTBR, for Huppert and Verhoeven fans only. I’d skip the “Elle” train to hell, and instead take the N for “Nocturnal Animals!”