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Take what you will
jdrew92231 October 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."
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jlriddell4 December 2001
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.
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I was devastated by this vicious, brilliant film
Mattydee7427 May 2001
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.
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Being deeply unsatisfying is satisfyingly deep
vacax28 December 2004
Warning: 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 enjoyed it.

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.
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Very much in the eye of the beholder!
uds325 October 2003
Warning: 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!
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A polished film from Breillat on her usual themes of sexuality
Chris_Docker13 August 2001
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.
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Should Be Required Viewing in Sex Ed Classes for Young Teens
noralee6 December 2005
"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. Too bad.

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)
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A Matter of Taste
bpfenzel-226 October 2004
Warning: 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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Moviezone Award Jury rapport @ International FilmFestival Rotterdam
jurjenvloon5 February 2002
Moviezone Award Jury rapport 2002 - Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat)

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.
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heterosexuality in a mess
jaibo23 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Devastating portrait of heterosexuality in a mess. A holiday romance between an beautiful virgin and a bland seducer is anatomised to show every twist and turn of the manipulations involved when a boy tries to get his dick inside a Romantically-inclined girl. The relationship begs many questions, not least why heterosexual sex needs to be conducted under the cloud of subterfuge. All of this is witnessed by the girl's overweight younger sister, a heretic against society's body fascism who carries not just excess body fat but a cynicism about men and relationships which belies her age to a frightening degree.

The long central sex scene in the sisters' shared bedroom is painful and authentic, with a morbid humour. The adults in the film - a workaholic bourgeois father, his neurotic wife and the blowzy Italian mama of the boy who indulges in over-dramatic posturing, suggest that the troubled teens have little but hypocrisy and pathology to look forwards to in adulthood.

At the end of the film, something truly shocking and horrible happens, after a long and hair-raising driving sequence as terrifying as anything in Duel. The ending is contentious and a deliberate non-sequitur. It seems to be suggesting that the truth about male/female sexuality is a murderous fury from the male end combined with a retreat into self-protective emotional catatonia in the female. A film which has been a social comedy-drama turns into a transgressive fantasy, and the effect leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth, not least because some of the possible readings involve the younger girl both willing and needing the event to happen in order to liberate her from the prison of her family and the oppressive beauty of her sister.
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Suddenly, Last Summer
Galina20 November 2007
Catherine Breillat's "Fat Girl" (2001) is an astounding movie that provides uncompromising and unblinking look at the relationship between two teenage sisters, and their first sexual experiences. The older sister, 15 years old Elena, has no problems attracting boys' attention and sexual desire and while on the family vacation, she meets an older, more experienced boy, who will say and promise anything to seduce her. There are two long, thorough and uncomfortable scenes of seducing Elena that take place in the girls' bedroom with the younger sister, 12 years old Anais, the fat girl of the title not quite asleep. Breillat remembers well what the hell it is to be a teenager, to be confused, frustrated, to think low of yourself, to be ready to enter the world of sexual relationships, to be ready for love, for intimate closeness and to pretend that you don't care about them at all. She also looks closely and with none a gram of sentimentality into siblings' and parents –daughters relationship. The scenes of cruelty and contempt the older sister treats the younger one alternate with rare but poignant moments of tenderness and understanding. Breillat takes us to places we don't go often and we don't want to go but they exist. If you've seen Brellat's movies already, you know that her outlook is not particularly happy, optimistic, or sentimental but "Fat Girl" will shock you as very few movies can. Just when you think that the movie is over and despite the disappointments, embarrassing revelations, and shameless manipulations, live goes on and has so much to offer, Breillat presents you with the final scene that is very difficult to watch and impossible to forget. It does not matter really if the final scene actually took place or was just a fantasy, just the dream projected on the screen.
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Bede15 August 2001
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, and 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 intercourse.

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.
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Black and Bloodless at the Same Time...
AnnHolway36027 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Is this art? Hey, you tell me. First of all, IMHO, a story/film doesn't need to qualify as "art" to be enjoyable. Second of all, like Bill Sampson says in my beloved "All About Eve", "What book of rules says that theatre exists only within some ugly buildings crowded into one square-mile of New York City? Or London, Paris, or Vienna? Wherever there's magic and make-believe and an audience, there's theatre." Even if it's not theatre to you, it's theatre to someone - somewhere. (paraphrase) Well, there sure as heck ain't magic here.

There is an excellent scene where 13-year old budding misanthrope Anais, full of the passion-bloom of early adolescence and the fairy-tale imagination of childhood, swims back and forth in the pool, picturing herself as the desired object of two dream lovers. I also liked the fact that Anais is already light years ahead of her 15-year old sister in the brains department. However, a good scene does not a good movie make.

The shame is – it might have made a very good story. What could have been a pitch-perfect, pitch-dark comedy/horror about sibling rivalry, middle-class ennui and the treachery of some young men somehow turned into a nihilistic mishmash of implausible dialogue and uneven tone.

It's interesting to me, a rampant film freak, that I have no blanket objection to the controversial subject matter/images of the film, but to the movie's tone and execution itself. Child rape? Hey, I found "B*****d out of Carolina" hard viewing, but an excellent film. Miserable adolescence? Dawn Weiner, we salute you. Men can be scum? Hello, and welcome to the "Company of Men". (Man, Aaron Eckhart scared me off dating for YEARS with that one.) Ultra-violence, ahoy? "A Clockwork Orange" – gorgeousness and gorgeosity! The depiction of twisted sex and the dark roads it can lead its characters – and us – down? Why not try "Don't Move" with Penelope Cruz? A film wants to be controversial? I'm all for it – I consider free speech one of my greatest privileges and I don't condone censorship.

But this – alas. Watching it, I couldn't help but remember a quote from the quirky NYC comedy "Jeffrey" – "Evil is one-note. It bores me." IMHO, this is darkness and mire without shading, dimension, satire, irony or much of anything original to say.

This is a movie that would probably like to believe it's as quirky, sharp and sardonic as Anais actually is. Unfortunately, it's as trite, pasty and insipid as her snarky older sister is. Anais deserves another – better – story, as do the viewers.

No matter how slim the selection of your local movie mart, there are so many more comedies, tragedies and romances that deserve your time. If you happen to see this on the shelf, why not give it a polite nod…and then keep walking? Your schedule – and your wallet – will thank you.

** Please also read Shinwa's insightful comments from 2002 – an excellent post!
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Be careful with what you wish for.
fdpedro14 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Catherine Breillat's "Fat Girl" is another one of those European coming-of-age films where two friends/relatives, one more sexually active than the other, spend a summer vacation in a beach resort. This time, it's two sisters: Fifteen-year old Elena (Roxana Mesquida, who appears to be younger) is the oldest and wishes to loose her virginity with someone she loves. Her younger sister is a innocent and chunky twelve-year old Anais (Anaïs Reboux) who would rather experience sex with a complete stranger. Both of them get their wishes.

Most of the film takes place inside the girls' bedroom, where Elena's slightly older Italian lover Fernando (Libero de Rienzo) hops through the window occasionally at night. The fact that Anais' bed is in the same room doesn't stop them from experiencing sex in front of her, who watches them in curiosity, as well as repugnance.

Similar to the bedroom scenes in Breillat's previous film, the dreadful "Romance X", these are actually some of this film's strongest aspects. They last for quite a while, and they actually feel like one single scene. Unlike other films with strong sexual content, Breillat never switches on the "porno mode", making the scene seem like one single unbroken piece.

Briellat's films are famous for having graphic depictions of sex but "Fat Girl" uses a more subtle approach. While we do see the couple naked, the camera never lingers into the bodies, it is all filmed in one take. And not much of it is shown, Breillat leaves it to our imagination by filming Anais' reaction to it all, and only allowing us to hear the encounter. Alejandro Amenabar used a very similar trick in "Thesis", where sound would allow us to imagine the snuff film's brutal murders.

The two sisters' relationship is a far cry from what one would expect. If you are waiting for constant whining and shouting between them, you will be disappointed. While they do argue, they are for most of the time friendly with each other. Little scenes like the family's visit to a mall, or when they talk in bed together, are what make this film special. In the end, they are best friends and do love each other, despite their differences and arguments.

Many people have criticized Breillat for negative portrayal of men in her films. Lorenzo is indeed a narrow-minded opportunist who is only seeking to take Elena's virginity, but no other character in the film is very positive either except for the title character. Elena is so naïve that at times she could be the protagonist of a Lars Von Trier tragedy, and the mother (Arsinée Khanjian) doesn't really know how to handle the situation near the end. One must give actress Anais Reboux credit for making her character adorable, when many other characters could have failed to cross the "from innocent and cute to annoying" borderline.

Similar to Takashi Miike's "Audition", "Fat Girl" goes from a slow drama to very disturbing horror near the end. Many people have criticized the ending but I am one of the defenders. ***SPOILERS*** It is very hard to believe the events in the conclusion were real. Like Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver", I stand by the theory that it all takes place in poor Anais' imagination, nothing but a twisted fantasy on how it would have all come full-cycle. In less than a minute, both girls have their wishes come true. Elena gets both her and her mother killed, just like she said in a road-stop, and Anais looses her virginity to a complete stranger, somehow. I would also like to mention the window-shattering moment has to be one of the most surprising moments in cinema in the last years. It comes out of nowhere, and will make you jump more than any other cheap scare tactic used in many lame horror films these days. ***END OF SPOILERS***

One of the best, and darkest, coming-of-age films you will ever encounter, "Fat Girl" is essential viewing to anyone who likes the genre. Great acting, superb cinematography, and well-handled direction by one of France's most daring filmmakers.
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Undone by ending
wynni117 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I understand that a film dealing with issues of female virginity - especially when the women involved are as young as the girls in this movie - can and indeed should be more than light entertainment. That said, I did not care for this movie. It's not the subject matter or the subetext or the mode of presentation that got me; it was the cruel, moralistic, judgmental tone taken by the director. Dynamics between the characters were compellingly and interestingly explored: the sisters' antagonism, and moreso the contrast of one brilliant scene in which they convince us all that they do love each other, the older sister's interaction with her parents, which was realistically one sided and antagonistic (she is a teenager after all). Even the wrenching scenes of her "lover's" manipulation of her were well-acted and occasionally subtle. Having to listen to her being sodomized, however, was unnecessary. It was the sort of shock technique that betrays a director's contempt of her audience: We understand that his manipulation of her is evil beyond words, and we hate him enough. As the scene descends from the quiet politics of (basically) a man trying to rape an unexperienced, lovesick girl into a series of shrieks and abrupt grunts (all the while we stare into the uninterested face of the "Fat Girl" of the American title), it's not in-your-face realism, it's just bathos.

Then there's the ending. The director spends an hour creating interesting character dynamics, a tense conflict between a young girl whose desires conflict with her own best interest but is too young to understand it, her sister who is forced to grow up under the influence of this person, and her mother who is confounded by the whole affair, and then decides to end it with a murderer with a hatchet. Yes, the scene is thematically resonant: All the characters get exactly what they want. The older sister gets to die along with her mom, and the younger sister gets to lose her virginity to a man who means nothing to her. So that's what the movie is? The director saying "Be careful what you wish for"?

Obviously, a director has an obligation to follow her or his muse; but that is no reason to revert to abject cruelty, both toward characters and the audience. Again, it's condescending: We can see the moral issues at work in this situation, so why do we need a psychopath to reduce everything to an obvious moral absolute in the most unpleasant, brutal fashion possible? It's just annoying moralism on the director's part, punishing the characters for... something - while punishing the audience, apparently, for caring about the characters. And we do care about the sisters. They deserve a better movie.
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pretentious and pointless
schnoidl4 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
a true portrait of some incredibly immature people you can't possibly come to care one bit about, who flop from one impulse or random surface emotion to another, lie to and absent-mindedly manipulate each other, with loads of prurient underage sex that adds nothing to the story, and a supremely lazy ending that i wish like hell i could get out of my memory. if you want to believe the above reviewers who say it's all poignant and intimate and all that, well go right ahead and see it. but when you hate the vicious ending and can't get it out of your head ever and it gives you the creeps every time you think of it, well, i did try to warn you. i've seen a couple of her films (this will be the last ever), and she seems to take a very schizophrenic delight in openly wallowing in the permissive/sordid lives of her characters, only to kill them out of nowhere, ultimately an incredibly dull moralizing prudishness masked as curiosity. maybe this smelled like a big windup to some big revelation to her, but to me it just stunk.
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Faces of Death IV: Supercilious French Movie
cngallo9 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There is a reasonably well-acted and interesting movie here up until the shocking and grotesque final sequence. Further, make no mistake that the grotesque nature of this sequence alone is not the source of my criticism. For example, the violent scene in "La Historia Oficial" is quite jarring and cruel, but perfectly appropriate and powerful... in short, necessary. "Saving Private Ryan" is another example of over-the-top grotesquery and intimate violence that did not feel gratuitous. This movie does not accomplish anything near the seamless integration of these examples.

While I understand the role of the rape of the "fat girl" and would consider it powerful in isolation, the scene as a whole is powerful only as an exemplar of superfluousness. In fact, it seems to me that the tacked on violence does considerable damage to the painstakingly constructed emotion of the rest of the film. What can the viewer surmise from the juxtaposition of such graphic and senseless murder with the deceitful theft of an innocent girl's virginity but that the latter is natural, fairly harmless and ultimately insignificant? Is this meant to cheer up the jilted teenagers of the world by emphasizing that worse things can happen? Is it meant to liberate women from society's emphasis on their virginity? Either way the extended shot of a young girl's cracked skull and oozing brain does not seem necessary. Can I suggest that instead the "fat girl" should have been quietly raped while going to the bathroom at the rest stop and failed to report the crime? I think this would have been more powerful.

Without the unnecessary obscenity, this is a thoughtful, interesting study of the bond of sisterhood, girls coming of age, alienation and sexual liberation, which I would give a 6 out of 10.
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Story of two sisters is rather dull before it gets worse
dbborroughs12 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
(CONTAINS SPOILERS-The ending is discussed) Another stunningly strange film from Catherine Breillat, director of Romance, Anatomy of Hell and Real Young Girl.

The plot concerns two sisters the older one, Elena who is about 14 or 15, and is thin and beautiful, and the younger,Anais, who is 12, is fat. While on vacation they meet a law student and Elena begins a dangerous flirtation with the young man. This quickly leads to several secret night time visits to the girls room as Anais watches her sister and her paramour. Tension grows between the girls as Anais longs for the affection that her sister is getting.

I should state I'm not a fan of Catherine Breillat. I find her films shocking and silly. Clearly she's going for an effect, which she usually achieves, and which is usually dissipated by the the lack of anything behind it (to paraphrase some one famous she presents the obvious by way of the scandalous). Here for example we have several scenes of intimacy between Elena and her beau, which are filmed in long almost painful takes that simulate Anais watching from across the room. The scenes are edgy for what they are showing and uncomfortable since the girl involved is 14 or 15. (Anais is suppose to be 12. Though both seem older.) For me the scenes went from intriguing to uncomfortable to dull rather quickly as they seemed to just drag on. To me the scenes would have worked better had we gotten to know the two girls more at the start. Certainly a later scene where the pair shows affection for each other adds a great deal the relationship between the pair, but for me it was too late to affect the early sex scenes. Breillat also goes for effect when she has the mother drive the girls home and we have what seems like a two hour ride with the three women in the car moving in and out of traffic. Its grand foreshadowing and she builds tension for an event that never comes while at the same time keeping you sleepy enough that when the final bit comes you're completely unprepared.

I have to tell you what that was but nothing that happens in the preceding 80 minutes prepared me for the unintentionally funny conclusion of this film. Many people find the sudden and shocking turn of events horrify and unnerving and the very end is, however what sparks that is simply very silly, and it was so out of left field, so bizarre, so ridiculous that the boredom of the long car sequence was sent packing as I doubled over in a fit of laughter. I can not and could not believe that anyone would do what Breillat does. Its a shock technique that doesn't belong in this film or a film like this which no doubt why so many people are horrified by it. Even if this were the sort of film that it might belong in, no one would do it as silly as here. What bothers me is that it leads up to a disturbing event that, and we should be really shocked and rattled to our core but for me it was wildly undercut in its power because what it took to get us there was so contrived and so ludicrous it runs the final bit.

I don't know what deeper meaning was behind it all, certainly the rivalry between sisters and sexual longing and such,but I got no hidden truth, nothing I didn't know before. I'm sure it has something with Anais' statements about sex, then again it could be the most forceful statement of what many consider a slasher films morality, namely sex is bad. To be honest I had my cage rattled a bit, but to what end? Perhaps had I been a girl with a sister or two this might have meant something to me, but as it stands now its a dullish movie with a WTF ending.

I'd leave this review there except I have to say something about the best thing in this film, namely the two girls the story revolves around. They are both stunning beautiful and damn fine actresses. The interplay between them is very real and I would love to see them paired up again, in a better film. To be honest they are so good that I will probably watch this again to see them interact (especially in the secrets scene) 4 out of 10 (I was tempted to say 5 out of ten but the ending really strikes me as too silly- a great moment-but for all the wrong reasons. I think the end is what sealed this films doom)
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Florin-C31 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the movies I could easily rate as one of the most hateful movies of all time. I saw it some time ago on TV, as the last thing on that day, so, luckily, it couldn't spoil much of the rest of my day.

But I imagine myself what would have been had I seen this on big screen, having paid for it. I think I would have asked myself: "Did I really need to see this ?" Worst thing is it doesn't get that bad, to make you walk out on it, until the last few minutes, but, when it gets bad, it gets obnoxious.

I wonder what made the director want to do this movie, then, I remembered that this species of film directors exist for quite some time, who want to stir controversy at all costs, and who live on the hype, and not on the money their movies make.

Having said all that I think that this movie could have been saved at least partially, if that last sequence of events had been set only in the imagination of the young girl. All the movie is about the build-up of hate from the main character towards her sister (and her mom, for her indifference), so I could have understood it. But then the director said: "Well, let's make it real. Just for shock's sake. I bet every film critic will have something to say about this."

1* (because 0 is not an option on IMDb, unfortunately).
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Disturbing and disjointed
Shinwa3 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
It's impossible to talk about this movie without mentioning the ending, so I've included one spoiler-free review for people who intend to see it. Do not read the second review if you are one of the latter category.


The less you know going into this movie, the better, but generally it deals with the complicated relationship between two adolescent sisters, one strikingly attractive and undergoing an initiation into adult sexuality via a persuasive and manipulative law student (but I repeat myself), the other overweight and cynical, observing her sister's experiences with alternating envy and contempt. It's pretty turgid going for the most part, and its treatment of sex leaves one a little queasy, but contains some memorable characterization and at least one very startling twist in the narrative that make it ultimately worthwhile. Rest assured you will be wide awake when you leave the theater.


I was really very tired of this movie by the time the final sequence came around. I found the dialogue overwritten (and overabundant) and the characters undeveloped, and the whole thing dragged itself along at a maddeningly slow pace. The actors are brave, and they do the best they can under Breillat's incessantly voyeuristic gaze which, if nothing else, evoke the carnality and emotional maelstrom of adolescent sexuality quite well (despite the aforementioned leaden dialogue), but in such a clinical and dispassionate way that one feels bad for the actors not because of the explicit nudity and sexuality, but because the inertness of the presentation sucks up all of their emotions and makes you feel as if you're watching the characters through a cage. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's very uncomfortable to sit through.

THEN comes the final sequence, presaged only by a vaguely ominous long highway driving sequence that carries on for several minutes, perhaps so that the audience will sympathize with the characters and nod off. It has previously been established that the mother is not used to driving, and the trucks bearing down on her at top speed suggest that a car accident is in the cards. Instead, they pull of the highway, and the audience relaxes. And then comes as shocking an explosion of violence as I can recall seeing in any movie.

In the context of all that comes before, it feels like a cheat, and my first impression was to say, "What a gimmicky cop-out." But it can't help but stay with one, and I am hard pressed to find a film that reproduces as effectively the shocking suddenness of death, which often DOES come out of nowhere as it does here. It's a shattering, nightmarish and profoundly disturbing scene, which trivializes all that comes before it (although much of it seemed pretty trivial to begin with). The coda vitiates the impact somewhat (it's implausible and considering what came before, leaves a bad taste in one's mouth), but without this final sequence I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone I know. Breillat pulls it off with a flourish, but between her calculatedly callous treatment of the characters, her tedious dialogue and the fact that as effective as the ending is, it is still a gimmick, I have some reservations in extending more than modest praise.
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Food and Sex
Meganeguard20 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Fat Girl opens with a scene depicting the sister Anais, 13, and Elena, 15, walking to town from their vacation how to get a drink. At first it appears as a seemingly innocent scene until their conversation is overheard. Of course, the topic is sex. While this topic is nothing new for teenagers going through the difficult years of puberty, what strikes the viewer is that the conversation goes far beyond mere curiosity. Elena, slim and pretty, has already engaged in a number of amorous activities besides actual penetration and Anais, overweight, plain, and deadpan, while still a virgin, is convinced that she wants her first sexual encounter to be with someone that she does not love so that she will be "broken in" for the man that she will one day love. This conversation devolves until Elena challenges Anais to see who can get a boy first.

Arriving at a small outdoor café, an Italian university student invites to Anais and Elena to sit at his table with him. Anais is quick to sit beside the student, whose name is Fernando, but is ordered to stand by Elena. Fernando assures the girls that it is perfectly alright to sit with him and Elena quickly takes the seat next to him and soon, after ordering some refreshments and making small talk the two are kissing. Because of her beauty and character, Elena's parents made a rule that Anais must be with her at all times away from the vacation home, but Elena is quick to abandon her sister for a short getaway with her new boyfriend.

Later in the film, after sharing a meal with Elena and Anais and their parents, Fernando sneaks into the vacation home and puts the move on Elena and she is more than willing to do anything for Fernando outside of intercourse. On this point, Fernando's demeanor changes and he tries to convince Elena to give herself to him as a "proof of love" because if she does not he will have to go off and find another woman which he does not want to do because he "loves" her. To appease Fernando, Elena consents to another route of intimacy which leaves her feeling ashamed, but Fernando assures her that it was "beautiful and "a proof of her love" for him. During this entire process, Anais has been watching the young couple. She was not spying on them per se because the activities were taking place within the bedroom that she shares with her sister. More mature than her amorously inclined but naïve older sister, Anais can see that things are leading to disaster.

Always a controversial director because of her filmic depictions of sexuality that borderline on the pornographic, some would say dive right into the pornographic, Breillat delved into new ground and faced even more controversy because of its depictions of underage sexuality. However, the sexual acts depicted in the film are not meant to titillate but to make the viewer feel uncomfortable, because it is one of the few films that reflect the suffering of a young girl who has been suckered by a man she "loves," she is already talking to Fernando about getting married which he fully supports to reach his "goal," and the damaging effects that it has. Also, the film does a wonderful job depicting children who grow up too quickly and the highly uncomfortable situations that it can create. The scenes depicting the drive home are almost exhausting because of the high sense of tension that they create.

While I cannot recommend Fat Girl to everyone, I can recommend it to film viewers who want to delve into a film that depicts sexuality, especially on the part of the male, at its mot base and the resulting psychological and sociological effects that it has.
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Better than expected tale of adolescent sexuality
craigboney11 March 2002
Directed by the 'controversial' Catherine Breillat (she showed a hard-on in her last movie, 'Romance'), the story revolves around a family on holiday with two adolescent sisters, the chubby 13 year old Anaïs (played by Anaïs Reboux) and the rather more svelte Elena (Roxane Mesquida) who is two years her senior, although rather less mature. Both girls are still virgins, although Elena is clearly aware of the power of her beauty over the opposite sex. Effortlessly she pulls Italian law student Fernando (Libero De Rienzo, with whom she begins an intense relationship. Fernando talks of love, but is obviously keen for sex. Poor Anaïs is unfortunately sharing a room with the pair as they fumble towards a deflowering. Indeed, this is one of the most beguiling scenes in the movie; you feel awkward bearing witness to what is going on - the constant demands of Fernando for 'a demonstration of love', which after refusals brings forth the sorts of coercing phrases regarding anal sex that so many girls must dread to hear.

The animosity is often intense between the sisters, Anaïs' bitterness towards her sister combined with a resigned maturity that only rejection and frustration can breed. But at the same time there are wonderful scenes of the two sharing sisterly moments; albeit with bile never far away. The point is well made, the bond is there, no matter how much of a bitch Elena can be. Anaïs is such a lost, sad character; the melancholic beauty of one scene on the beach where she is singing to herself whilst Elena and Fernando 'make out' is incredible. Also well portrayed is the relationship with the parents. Mother is very much like Elena; Father is a workaholic who hates holidays and returns home before the others. Although the parents are mostly secondary in the story, you sense that they tend to reinforce Anaïs insecurities and knock her down further. This is exemplified in the scene the morning after the first Elena & Fernando night together. Anaïs is clearly really low, crying and choked. Her parents offer zero warmth, the only solace coming from a still caustic Elena shoving bread into her mouth to comfort her.

The story climaxes as the sisters and their mother return home from their holiday, after a gloriously comic scene where Fernando's mother (Laura Betti) visits to reclaim a precious ring that he had given to Elena as an engagement ring. The journey toward home is fantastically shot; the claustrophobia of motorway driving - especially since the mother doesn't like driving, and is pretty p****d at Elena's antics and Anaïs' miserableness - metaphoring the unease between the three, even more so as night wears on and mother becomes more wary of the huge dangerous lorries that she overtakes incautiously on the freeway. If I was an absolute ponce (or totally fearless), I would say these trucks are a metaphor for the male predatory sexuality against the tiny feminine car (which still manages to nimbly overtake at will most of the time). But I'm not (?), so I won't. Anyway, the ending comes as a huge shock. So I'm not going to tell you it. But safe to say you don't leave the cinema with a laugh and a giggle.

Overall, I was actually surprised by how deep this story was; there was only one gratuitous erection, and even that was covered by a condom. A brave attempt to analyse adolescent female sexuality, often leaving an unplesant taste in the mouth, but well worth a go if you're in the mood.
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The brilliant, amazing Catherine Breillat....one of her best films, and one of the greatest films ever made about sex...
GrigoryGirl3 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I adore Catherine Breillat. Her films really get at the core of the war (and it's a war) between men and women. Gone is any trace of silliness and sentimentality. This film, Fat Girl (aka For My Sister) was the first film of hers I saw, and it's still a favorite.

The film centers around 2 sisters, one seductive and one slovenly and fat, yet the fat one seems to know what's going on better than her (at least physically) more attractive sister. The scenes where an Italian suitor tries to seduce the attractive sister are difficult to watch, because they have so much truth in them. Many people dislike Breillat's film intensely, usually American critics. Mind you, the critics of Breillat's films aren't the usual, religious fundamentalists. They are usually "educated", liberal critics who are supposed to be open minded, but seems to shut down their minds when reviewing Breillat's films. They take scenes out of context (like right wing fundies do when they criticise films they don't like), and start attacking Breillat herself, instead of looking at her work.

She's been compared to the Marquis de Sade, not in terms of S/M sex, but in the tone of her work regarding relationships (many people have never read de Sade. His work is about much more than bondage). Watching interviews with her is as fascinating as her films. Her films are very bleak and cynical, yet there is more truth in one frame of Fat Girl (and Breillat's other work) than in an entire season of Sex and the City (I would have loved to see her as "special guest director" on Sex and the City. It would have been the best episode), or many American films that are pretending to be "edgy" about sex, but in fact end up being childish.

Many people dislike the ending of this film, saying it doesn't fit in with the rest of the movie. The ending fits in perfectly with the tone of the film (and of the character it most affects). I think the ending is so unique that many people just can't accept it. This (along with Anatomy of Hell) are amongst the best of her films. To have a filmmaker as perceptive as her in this day and age is something we should all be grateful for. See Sex is Comedy as well. It's a companion piece to this film. Brilliant Breillat.
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Going on a crash diet
jotix10019 November 2001
Catherine Breillat, the director of this film, knows how to provoke an audience with her risky themes. "A ma soeur" is a more disturbing film than the other director's movies, which we have enjoyed. Miss Breillat presents us an overweight teen ager who shows signs of low self esteem. To make matters worse, her sister, who is an attractive and slim girl, shows a cruel strain toward her sibling.

We find the two sisters during a summer vacation. The two girls are so different that logically, we feel bad for the poor fat sister, who obviously, is at a disadvantage. The pretty sister has no problems attracting boys; she has no problems taking the one she likes to bed, while her sister listens to all what's going on in the room. This is cruelty beyond imagination.

Miss Breillat shows courage in presenting this thorny account about sexual awakening. The only thing that feels out of place is the long sequence at the end of the film, which comes out of nowhere and leaves the audience stunned, as proved by the people that flocked to read the review posted on the lobby of the Lincoln Plaza cinemas, as many viewers obviously had trouble understanding the film.

Those last minutes of the film seem endless and proved nothing more than perhaps a director who ran out of ideas and didn't know where to take the story, therefore the ending that will disappoint even those avid Breillat's fans.
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This is terrible
tinapopov9 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I read the insert with this movie and the director said she had two stories she wanted to tell and it feels like it. The ending ruins the whole movie. It feels tacked on and shocking for the sake of shock. From the moment the women get in the car, you know something bad is going to happen to them, the story takes a dive and you just wait for the bad, which does happen.

I can not tell you how sick I am of rape scenes, especially in French movies where the women end up embracing or encouraging their rapists. I also am not happy with the nudity of a 12-year-old girl and watching her get raped (with nudity involved) after seeing her family killed.

For people who like this kind of mess and don't know of more French movies like this, please see "I Stand Alone", "Criminal Lovers" and/or "One, Two, Three, Sun". All with rape scenes where the rapist is embraced or the act is condoned and make you feel incredibly disgusting after seeing them.
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