Wow, that was a rough movie to watch. Great, but rough.
The movie is “Elle,” it’s directed by Paul Verhoeven, and it stars Isabelle Huppert as Michèle. It starts with the rape of Michèle, and it’s graphic. Then she gets raped again, and it’s still graphic. And there are flashbacks, and they are graphic. Yes, this movie is a hard “R,” and yet the movie is still a really great movie.
I figured I would get that out of the way at the start as that may stop those who are offended, or have no interest in watching any scenes such as that. Yes, the movie at its core is supposed to be about a woman who doesn’t want to be a victim, a woman who is empowered, but wow, it’s a rough watch. It’s also in French with subtitles so if you don’t want to “read” a movie because you don’t know French, heck, that might also be a turn-off. Still, it’s a great movie.
Let’s get to the story…
Michèle is divorced, lives with her cat, and runs a software company. One day she gets raped in her home, and shockingly, rather than call the police, she picks herself up, cleans up, and continues to go about her life. She does start to build up a self-defense arsenal of pepper spray and handheld weapons, and finally, while at dinner with friends, announces she was attacked, and supposes she was raped. Her friends, kind of stunned by the news, don’t seem to act that much in shock, and when Michèle announces she isn’t telling the police, mostly because she doesn’t trust them, her friends, in the end, seem okay with it.
As it goes the rapist seems to know who she is, and it appears it was a targeted attack because he teases her with messages to her phone, and on her computer, and although she seems flustered, Michèle isn’t overly concerned.
Moving on we find out that she also has the hots for her neighbor, is involved in an affair, and struggles with her past, a past that involves her father being a serial killer, a crime she was sort of involved in. She also has a son who is kind of a loser, involved with a girl who has a child that may or not be the sons, and mom really doesn’t like the girlfriend.
Eventually the truth comes out as to the identity of the attacker after a later rape scene, and then there is this uber-weirdness as Michèle still continues on with her life, even with the rapist present. Is she plotting revenge? Is she just trying to say “You aren’t going to control my life?” In any case, at least to me, Michèle hangs out with a lot of twisted people.
In some of the extras on the Blu-ray it is explained that the essence of the story is that Michèle doesn’t want to be the victim. There aren’t really any scenes of her breaking down, no “Whoa is me!”, and no friends even overly “Oh my God, you were raped. You need counseling and comfort.” Nope, Michèle just continues with her life, even after the subsequent violent attacks, until things all come together at the end.
While I understand the empowerment theme, and how they built the backstory of why Michèle distrusts the police so much, there is still the disturbingness of her not concerned that the rapist might be attacking other women, and that maybe she could help in the investigation to find him. She may not want to be portrayed as a victim, but it takes a way-long time for her to realize that maybe she should tell the police, but even then she isn’t so sure.
You might be saying to yourself “Wow, that sounds like a really crappy story. How can you say the movie was great?” Well, here’s the thing. The greatness comes in the fact the story is shocking, and the writing is great, and the acting of Isabelle Huppert as Michele Michèle is fantastic, and director Paul Verhoeven does a wonderful job of intertwining the entire story and getting the best out of his cast.
Shocking? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Great? Yes. It’s 4 stars out of 5 for “Elle.”
That’s it for this one! L8R!!