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This film is a necessary act of violation on its viewers. A pure, lethal injection of dramatic suffering which is beautifully rendered but left me feeling devastated by its intensity. Breillat is a director who has already made shock-waves with her last film "Romance". In her latest piece of disturbing cinematic violence, she takes us inside the life of a 13 year old overweight girl inside an average, upper middle-class family. On a holiday away with this family, we experience her exposed difference as her 15 year old sister begins to experiment with sex, often with her young sister a passive spectator. The parents are indifferent creatures, affected mainly by social pressures and appearances. Unaware - or possibly simply disinterested - in their daughters lives, they miss the painful undersides of the two girls forced closeness. Breillat offers more explicit sex, erections, and some extremely gruelling violence. I recommend this film but its intelligence and emotional truth is, necessary.
"Fat Girl" is unrated so probably will never be shown in sex ed classes
for 14-year-old girls willing to read the subtitles of a French film.
Written and directed by Catherine Breillat, whose other controversial movies about girls and sex I've somehow missed and will now catch up on, the original title of "A ma soeur!" (to, or maybe colloquially for, my sister) makes a lot more sense.
But not since the very scary "Smooth Talk" have I seen the seduction of a pretty teen-ager by a hunky older guy shown so effectively, as this is a whole lot more explicit and sensually realistic in how they interact in a cagey game of alluring naiveté vs. determined persuasion.
Unlike "American Beauty" whose quasi-pedophilia I found disturbing, this is a sophisticated view of the powerful forces unleashed between a guy young enough to be attracted yet old enough to know better, and a girl old enough to be attracted yet young enough not to know better. Is he the banality of evil, an update of Sportin' Life or the snake -- or is he just being a guy? In class, the teacher could stop the tape in the middle of the dialog and action, and say "Whoa, girls, what could you say when he says that? When he does that? When you feel like that?"
And we watch this all played out in a fascinating way, from the viewpoint of, with devastating impact on, her younger, titular sister who has to endure an up close and personal intimacy with them under the noses of oblivious parents.
While the sibling relationship is the anchor, the ending may be a culminating precautionary statement on a very negative view of the battle of the sexes, but no one walking out of the theater was sure.
The Ontario Film Review Board missed the educational point in censoring the film, but I concur that it's a disturbing film.
Listening to Top 40 radio on the way home sure made me suspicious of all those declarations of love pouring out from all those guys.
Coincidentally, I re-saw the Rohmer film "Pauline on the Beach" hours later on IFC and now see that Breillat is making a dark commentary on that classic, both riffing off a 14-year-old on vacation amidst a sexual whirligig; the French may have a different reaction than me.
(originally written 10/27/2001)
At the NY Film Festival's Q&A with Breillat, she expressly forbid seeing
"Fat Girl" (as she prefers to call it) as a morality play. She eluded any
attempts to draw her into conclusions about her film, insisting that she is
not a moralist.
What is clear from the questions she asks, however, is that she views sex with a certain contempt, especially as regards the male role in the act. The men that are in the film are either insensitive, duplicitous or murderous. Breillat's intent is to show how adrift any adolescent girl is when it comes to sexuality and to somehow convey that to an adult audience. She counseled young Anais during filming by saying, "We are making a film that I don't even think you can see when it is done, but it is not for you. It is supposed to scare adults."
Director Breillat is back and, as she did with "Romance", pushing the bounds of censorship in an intellectually challenging fashion. The story follows the sexual development of two sisters in their early teens. Their middle class family embody the usual social mores and protective attitudes. Moreover, the story makes us aware of the legal dilemma of under age sex, undertaken as a matter of conscious choice and with proper protection by the 15-year old (older) sister with a boyfriend only a few years her senior (ie the relationship would be legal in Netherlands but not in many countries, including France). These are two fairly "normal" sisters, although the younger one is excessively overweight and only fantasizes about getting a boyfriend. There is some possible interpretation that the 15-year old's psychological development would progress more soundly were she not (initially) fettered by taboos over her own virginity. In one scene, a TV in the background has a Breillat-type character being interviewed and giving her philosophy about the intrinsic nature of sex, how it is something common to us all and that can be understood by anyone, and that we are all alike inasmuch as no-one is perfect. The characters and scenes are painted brilliantly, the sibling rivalry coupled with intense sisterly bonding, the mother driving at night and, as many people will have, with a lack of sleep and so not as perfectly safely as normal. It is the realism and ordinariness of the situations that keep us on the edge of our seats. The dialogue has the realism that suggests youngsters may have suggested some of the lines, with their observations that have the power to startle us out of complacency. The use of actors so young in fairly explicit scenes will be a matter of great concern, but Breillat is serious about her work and convinces us that she is not pandering to sensationalism but raising valid questions about how we effectively handle the challenges presented by precocious adolescents. The film is more polished than Breillat's earlier work and has an unnerving denouement, well-delivered.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most people watch movies in order to enjoy them. Every so often a film
comes around that is hard to enjoy, but is undeniably artistic. And I'm
not saying the movie isn't good -- I'm saying you're not supposed to
leave the movie with feeling satisfied, happy, or particularly having
I found the relationship between the sisters to be superbly crafted. Despite their differences and constant bickering, they love each other. This is clear. The sisters meet Fernando, who proceeds to seduce 15 year old Elena with every clichéd "you have to have sex with me to prove you love me" technique imaginable. However mind-bogglingly obvious his impure intentions are, Elena falls for it hook, line, and sinker. Though it sounds rather formulaic, I found it intriguing because it really does happen this way so often.
It is interesting how the younger Anais recognizes Fernando's intentions, yet allows her sister to make her own mistakes. Inevitably, it becomes apparent to all that Fernando betrayed Elena in the worst way. The mother responds in what is a rather cold and unsympathetic manner, but in reality this is exactly how any parent would react in the situation.
This is a spoiler-filled review, so I will now tackle the ending without holding back details. I'm sure many people are reading this in order to find out the opinions of others over the shocking and violent final scenes. Most of the parallels that this form explains have already been mentioned in other comments here. Is virginity sacred? Anais and Elena would answer that differently. Nonetheless, the end result is the same for both -- their first mates betray them. Elena believed her virginity was sacred, but was easily seduced and lost it. Even though Anais has a different take on virginity, she is also betrayed, this time by a rapist. You can also ponder the moral quandary of whether or not Elena was raped by her Italian lover. She may as well have been. In fact, it seems that having her heart torn out was more emotionally traumatic than when Anais's virginity was forcibly torn away.
Of course the responsibility for the tragic ending lies solely on the maniac who commits the acts. Yet, situationally speaking every single character (both sisters, both of their parents, Fernando, Fernando's mother) is somehow responsible for putting them in that place at that time.
If you're looking for a deeper meaning in the ending, I believe there is a notable parallel between the narrative and the ending. So many people have said, "the director ran out of ideas" or "it's a gimmick" or "it's just shock value" or just think it doesn't fit the narrative. Many have expressed feelings of cinematic betrayal in the end of the film -- this betrayal mirrors the betrayal of both sisters. The director is like Fernando, seducing us for the entire film, screwing us, then abandoning us. It is so sudden, shocking, and unbecoming that we feel raped... much like the Fat Girl.
The cinematic and artistic values hold true in the ending. You just have to look for it. It is up to personal taste whether this makes for a "good movie" or not.
Somehow this film picked up the English title 'A Fat Girl'. How
inappropriate, I thought, because for most of the film, the romance of the
elder, more attractive sister takes center-stage. It is only at the end,
after some horrible things have happened, that it becomes clear that the
film has been leading us to understand the fat sister Anais's strange
reaction to what happened to her. I have read criticism of the violence
late in the film, as not having flowed out of what has gone before. Such
criticism misses the point of the movie, I think, which is about the
contrast between Anais's first sexual experience and the lovely Elena's,
Anais's acceptance of rape as being preferable to being in love with the
boy, as Elena had been, when we and Anais watched Elena's first
I thought the acting in this film wonderful, and Anais Reboux, as the fat girl is an outstanding find. This is a touching film, with real characters with whom to empathize, especially the two girls, both young and romantic, one with a saving touch of cynicism.
This is a film that is difficult to say you "liked." It gives a view of the different facets of cruelty. Anais (the "Fat Girl" of the title) is buffeted with cruelty and indifference at every turn--that directed toward her and that she witnesses. Her corpulence is both an attempt to insulate herself against these assaults but at the same time, indicative of her internalization of them. But ultimately, the film is similarly an assault on the viewer, be warned. It stings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another film that has polarised critics and audiences alike worldwide. There
must be few adjectives if not expletives,yet to be ascribed to this quite
extraordinary movie. Whatever one's opinion ultimately, A MA SOEUR (known in
Australia and the US rather unflatteringly as FAT GIRL) is not a movie I
would consider easy to ignore.
What it DOES achieve, and I won't re-hash the plot given that so many people have, is an ascerbic observation, if not insight into the mind of precocious teenage girls....one primed and ready for the physical, but not the emotional, the other with all the same hopes and dreams, but not the packaging. These girls are good - you FEEL the plight of a gawky 13 year old who yearns unrealistically to compete with her sister on a sexual and experiential level.
The ending? Well yeah we ARE talking majorly sensationalistic poetic license here. Violence of a fascinatingly unlikely nature. I applaud the director's red herring during that final freeway fourney...most every viewer would have been awaiting that final pile-up. The concluding rape and its aftermath will be discussed ad infinitum...You either get it, don't get...or don't CARE to get it!
Personally I believe this film warrants a 7.6!
Moviezone Award Jury rapport 2002 - Fat Girl (Catherine
The winning film amongst three fantastic films has got to be a very special feature. Catherine Breillat showed the jury the world of two sisters which do not only differ in the physical aspect of their characters but also have their own very distinctive expectations and desires when it comes to their first time having sex. The bond between the sisters is portrayed very well, the girls and the life they live are very recognizable. When you are watching the film you forget you are watching actresses when they flawlessly get across very strong and personal emotions in a very subtle manner. The observations of the fat girl show precisely how she encounters her sisterhood; her negative self-image and the absurd fascination for her sister. The strong hand of the director and the personal theme makes Fat Girl a film which will be remembered for a long time and which will be the subject of many discussions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***Spoilers*** Breillat is a polarizing filmmaker. She makes film that
are meant to divide us. Whether you cry "Heretic!" or "Genius!" it
points to her effectiveness.
Sure, the last 10 minutes seem like a fake-out, but it's a perfectly executed one. She creates a feeling of imminent doom through claustrophobic camera set-ups and then subverts expectations. The ending could be seen as a realistic fantasy. After all, we are watching a film which implicitly is fantasy. For the entire film, we've shared Anais POV. A shift like this isn't as off the mark as some viewers seem to suggest. We are seeing the world through Anais caged prepubescent eyes. To me, it seemed like a clever collaboration between storyteller and character. It services the viewer's craving for resolution. The sudden presence of a hatchet-wielding assailant is shocking and upsetting, but such an event was clearly foreshadowed. Elena's reference to being in the "dead man's seat" and the mother's reluctance to drive as well as Anais' commitment to having sex for the first time with somebody that's she's "not in love" with all point to a resolution like this. It's as if Anais libidinous fantasy has come to life. Perhaps the filmmaker is simply saying "Be careful what you wish for" or maybe she saw no other alternative for her wishful protagonist than to experience the ultimate sex/death scenario. Beyond the feelings that this climax generates, what precedes it is a painstaking and honest portrait of youthful angst and sexuality. Bravo to Breillat for having the courage to charter this territory and never letting her singular vision be compromised.
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