What if courting someone involves an occasional sexual assault? And before answering, guess why this film is dying at the box office.
Elle is an intriguing, lecherous film that only a talented French Director like Paul Verhoeven could bring to the screen. To begin with, don’t be misled by promotional comments that suggest it deals with a rape victim seeking revenge. Quite frankly, it would be more accurately described as a story of a rape victim who discovers the upside of having violent sex on a floor while being slapped around a bit by her masked attacker.
Isabelle Huppert plays Michèle Leblanc, the rape victim in question. She is a gifted actress as reflected by her Best Actress recognition at this year’s Golden Globes as well as her Oscar nomination in that category. Michèle is a strong woman who deals with her employees with the same upper hand that she does her ex-husband.
Michèle is raped after returning home from work in the movie’s opening scene. Looking like a villain from Deadpool in his black disguise, the rapist has his way and then quickly leaves.
Michèle doesn’t report the incident to the police because of a terrible encounter with the authorities as a young teenager. Her psychologically damaged father committed a series of hideous assaults and the press treated her as if she was somehow involved in criminal conduct.
Regardless, what I perceived as a growing weakness of the film dealt with Michèle doing nothing despite receiving frequent messages from her assailant. It becomes increasingly clear that the rapist intrigues her, and I can only let you guess where Director Verhoeven is taking this disturbing film.
I must admit that I find many French films to be terribly intriguing given that they frequently focus on a subject matter largely ignored by Hollywood. In Elle, everyone, and I mean everyone, is involved with marital affairs. Rather than condemn it, many French directors portray these relationships as adding an unavoidable seductive nature to life’s journey.
It almost makes you wonder why President Trump didn’t decide to become a French citizen decades ago.