Elle


Michelle takes her solace where she can find it.

Michelle takes her solace where she can find it.

(2016) Thriller (Sony Classics) Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, Virginie Efira, Judith Magre, Christian Berkel, Jonas Bloquet, Alice Isaaz, Vimala Pons, Raphaél Lenglet, Arthur Mazet, Lucas Prisor, Hugo Ponzelmann, Stéphane Bak, Hugues Martel, Anne Loiret, Nicolas Beaucaire, David Colombo-Léotard, Loic Legendre, Eric Savin, Olivia Gotanégre. Directed by Paul Verhoeven

 

There are traumatic events in our life that shape us as people – sometimes making us stronger, sometimes making us more vulnerable. If there is something that truly defines us, it is how we react to those kinds of traumas.

As the movie begins, we witness the brutal and savage rape of Michelle (Huppert), the often prickly co-owner of a videogame company in France. When the masked assailant is done, he leaves her to literally pick up the pieces (of broken glass) and wash away (literally) the stains of her ordeal. She seems numb to it all, then goes about life as if nothing had happened – indeed until she mentions that she was raped almost casually at a dinner party, she tells nobody about the event, not even her son (Bloquet) who has a pregnant girlfriend (Isaaz) who is shrewish and almost psychotic.

Michelle begins to suspect that the person who raped her is someone employed by her, so she has one of the few people she trusts quietly hack into her male employees’ home computers to see what they’re up to. In the meantime we discover that Michelle has let her ex-husband Richard (Berling) know that she disapproves of his new choice of wives and her mother (Magre) her choice of boyfriends. As she is being judgmental she is carrying on an extramarital affair with Robert (Berkel), husband of her best friend (Consigny) and the company’s co-owner. She is also attracted to Patrick (Lafitte), the very married new neighbor across the street.

But she is receiving menacing texts apparently from the man who raped her and when he returns for a follow-up visit, she is strangely aroused. Now it has become a full-blown obsession – but who is the man responsible? And as Michelle begins to grow colder to those who work with her and who are her friends and family, inevitably something is going to have to give.

Huppert’s performance has already netted her a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and let me tell you right off the bat that she has earned all of that. This is a searing performance that can be hard to watch – Michelle has all sorts of issues and not all of them are pretty – but at the same time one you can’t look away from. Huppert, a French sex symbol for decades has in her 60s become one of the Grand Dames of French cinema and this is perhaps her best performance ever. It is layered almost in ways that make her seem like she has multiple personalities; sometimes vulnerable, sometimes cold as ice, sometimes hot as lava, sometimes aggressive, sometimes bitchy and sometimes tender but always fascinating.

The veteran cast behind her excels particular Consigny (who I think is one of the most underrated actresses in France) and Lafitte whose character is not all he appears to be. Most of the characters here share that quality.

As thrillers go, there are moments here that are absolutely wrenching but this is by no means an “edge of the seat” affair and in many ways this is more of a slow burn than an intense flame. There are some twists as you might expect and as you also might expect they are not what you’d get from a Hollywood thriller which is quite pleasant particularly for veteran cinemaphiles who rarely get surprised with the genre anymore.

The rape sequences spare nothing as those who have followed Verhoeven’s career might expect. Verhoeven has a history of sexual explicitness in his films and the rape scenes here are no different. They are graphic and brutal and those who have survived sexual assaults or are sensitive to them in any other way should think really hard before seeing this as it might prove to be a trigger. Seriously, it is not for the faint of heart and not for those who are thin of skin. Take that warning seriously.

This is definitely Huppert’s show however and the big reason to see it is her. It is a triumphant performance for a woman who has had a distinguished career although here in the States she has not received the recognition she is due. Although she is up against some strong competition, she does have a strong chance at winning the statuette and that can only be justice for a career that deserves more attention that has been received from American audiences.

REASONS TO GO: An intense and riveting performance by Huppert. Several twists and turns that are unexpected and welcome.
REASONS TO STAY: The sexual assault scenes may be too disturbing, particular for survivors of sexual assault.
FAMILY VALUES: There are several graphic sexual assaults, some disturbing sexual scenes, gruesome images, nudity and profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film was originally to be an American production, but Verhoeven was unable to find a lead actress willing to do the role. Huppert got a hold of the script and contacted the producers expressing her interest and even suggested that Verhoeven direct the film, unaware that he was already attached to it.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/4/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 89% positive reviews. Metacritic: 89/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Accused
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

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New Releases for the Week of January 13, 2017


Patriot's DayPATRIOT’S DAY

(CBS) Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michele Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Paige MacLean, Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O’Shea. Directed by Peter Berg

A watershed mark for our nation over the past few years is the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. Not only did it galvanize a city but an entire nation learned the meaning of the term “Boston strong.” This movie takes a look at the event from the viewpoint of first responders, survivors and those who investigated the crime and relentlessly pursued the bombers, this is a look at an unspeakable act that led to unmistakable courage.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, featurettes and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug use)

The Bye Bye Man

(STX) Carrie-Ann Moss, Faye Dunaway, Douglas Smith, Doug Jones. Don’t imagine him. Don’t even think about him. Whatever you do, don’t you dare mention his name. Otherwise, the Bye Bye Man will get inside you and force you to commit terrible acts of pure evil. Three college friends are about to find out that there is never any escape from the Bye Bye Man.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for bloody horror violence, language and some sexuality)

The Crash

(Vertigo) Frank Grillo, Minnie Driver, AnnaSophia Robb, Dianna Agron. In the near future, the United States is under attack by cyber-terrorists who want to bring our economy to its knees. In desperation, the federal government enlists the aid of white collar criminals to stop the hack and take down the terrorists – before our nation comes to a grinding halt.

See the trailer and a clip here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Crime Thriller
Now Playing: AMC Loew’s Universal Cineplex

Rating: PG (for thematic elements and some language)

Elle

(Sony Classics) Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling. The ruthless head of a French video game company is sexually assaulted in her home. Not willing to take this  lying down, she relentlessly chases after her rapist and in so doing gets involved in a game of cat and mouse which threatens to spiral out of control.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for violence involving sexual assault, disturbing sexual content, some grisly images, brief graphic nudity, and language)

Live by Night

(Warner Brothers) Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller. A veteran of World War I becomes a self-proclaimed outlaw although one who really isn’t cut out for the bootlegger’s life – he’s far too good-hearted, a trait that can lead to serious difficulties with some of the more amoral elements of that element. Driven to get revenge for the wrongs against him, he travels from the cold winters of Boston to the warm tropics of Tampa with a plan to make right those wrongs.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Crime Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity)

Monster Trucks

(Paramount) Lucas Till, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Amy Ryan. A young man is desperate to escape the small town and boring life he’s been born into and it seems likely doomed to remain in. His plan is to build himself a monster truck, become a champion driver, and leave his dust speck of a town in his rearview. What he doesn’t count on is the alien presence that invades his truck and gives it a life of his own. Now he is certain to get out of town; but if someone finds out his secret, it’s likely he’s going to spend the rest of his life in a secret government base! Which might be just a little bit of an improvement…

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D
Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for action, peril, brief scary images and some rude humor)

Silence

(Paramount) Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds. The latest from director Martin Scorsese concerns a pair of Christian missionaries who undertake a dangerous mission to feudal Japan. They go there in search of their mentor, who disappeared after renouncing the faith, something both men believe he would never do. They enter a country and culture both mysterious and beautiful – and deadly in that their faith is outlawed and they could be killed on sight.

See the trailer and interviews here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for some disturbing violent content)

Sleepless

(Open Road) Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Gabrielle Union, Dermot Mulroney. A corrupt Vegas undercover cop finds the stakes just a little bit higher after a heist gone wrong puts a vicious gang of mobsters after him. When they kidnap his son, he realizes they have no intention of letting his boy go. He’ll have to resort to every dirty trick there is, call on every favor and be just a little bit meaner than those who have his boy if they are both to survive the night.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong language and language throughout)

Pick of the Litter – November 2016


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

(Warner Brothers) Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell. One of the most anticipated films of the year is here as we return to the Wizarding World created by J.K. Rowling – with a script by Rowling herself! Set in the 1920s, it involves Newt Scamander, a studier of magical creatures, is returning after a world tour seeking out rare and amazing creatures when he stops in New York City. There, his suitcase – carrying many of the beasties – is accidentally opened, releasing them into the Big Apple. Now, he must retrieve the creatures during a crisis in the American magical community and stay clear of the Muggles (in America called No-Mag) before finding a way home. David Yates, director of the last three Harry Potter films, is aboard. Incidentally, Rowling recently announced that the three-movie series would now be expanded to five. November 18

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Ivory Game

The Ivory Game

(Netflix) Kief Davidson, Richard Ladkani. The largest mammal on Earth is being hunted into extinction. Poachers in Africa are killing the African elephant at a terrifying rate, taking their tusks for ivory and selling it to willing buyers in China. Animal activists go undercover to stop the ivory trade and save an entire species from the extinction that actually benefits the poachers in that it drives the price of their merchandise up the less elephants that remain. Leonardo di Caprio is the producer of this important documentary. November 4

Elle

Elle

(Sony Classics) Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling. A successful businesswoman, owner of a videogame development company, is sexually assaulted in her own home. When the perpetrator gets away without revealing anything about his identity, she is understandably upset. Determined not to let the criminal change her life, she determines to figure out who he is. However, she enters a game of cat and mouse in which the stakes are life and death. Renowned director Paul Verhoeven is behind the camera for this one. November 11

Notes on Blindness

Notes on Blindness

(Bond/360) Dan Skinner, Simone Kirby, Eileen Davies, Miranda Beinart-Smith. In the summer of 1983 shortly before the birth of his first son, writer/theologian John Hull lost his sight. Trying to make sense of the way his life has been irrevocably changed, Hull recorded an audio diary of his experiences and insights. Those audio cassettes with the voices of Hull and his wife Miranda are used as voiceovers for this amazing film which gives the sighted the closest thing to imagining what it’s like to be blind without actually losing their sight. November 16

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

(Roadside Attractions) Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler. Kenneth Lonergan, a writer/director of some renown, may have produced the movie he will be remembered for here. Affleck plays a janitor who has been estranged from his family; when his brother passes away suddenly, he is shocked to find out that his brother named him guardian of his only son in his will. At first he doesn’t want the responsibility of raising his nephew when he can barely take care of himself, but as time goes by he discovers that raising a man can be much more rewarding than he ever knew. November 18

Officer Downe

Officer Downe

(Magnet) Kim Coates, Alison Lohman, Lindsay Pulsipher, Mark Neveldine. In a city ruled by larger-than-life crime bosses, a superhero is needed to take them down. Well, this city doesn’t have one but it does have Officer Downe, a rough-and-tumble cop who won’t let a little thing like death get in the way of serving justice. This is based on the graphic novel of the same name and is produced by the same people who brought you Crank. November 18

Lion

Lion

(Weinstein) Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman. In this amazing but true story, a little boy accidentally gets on a train and ends up in Calcutta, thousands of miles from home. Lost in the streets of a brutal city, he is adopted by a kind-hearted Australian couple. Years later, now a young man, he longs to find the family he once knew that only exist now as scraps of memories he can barely identify. Despite having very little to go on and a vast country to search, he makes the journey to find himself – and the other family that he once had. November 25

Mifune: The Last Samurai

Mifune: The Last Samurai

(Strand) Toshiro Mifune, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Keanu Reeves. The Japanese icon Toshiro Mifune redefined what screen heroism was. Legendary director Akira Kurosawa routinely cast him in roles that required the attributes of a samurai warrior and Mifune responded. Without this team, American movies would never have been the same and yet outside of cinema buffs his name is little known in the States. This documentary with an all-star line-up of commentators seeks to rectify that injustice. November 25