DVD Movie Review: Elle
Date Viewed: March 22 2017
Directed By Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Showgirls and Hollow Man)
Screenplay By David Birke, Based on the novel by Philippe Dijan
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, Virginie Efira, Judith Magre, Christian Berkel, Jonas Bloquet, Vimala Pons, Alice Issaz, Arthur Mazet, Raphael Lenglet and Lucas Prisor.
The film begins with a middle-aged woman being raped in her home by a masked intruder. Instead of calling the police, the woman just cleans up her mess and moves on like it never even happened. Paul Verhoeven's French-language film "Elle" tells the story of a conflicted woman who's the victim of rape but she doesn't want to be portrayed as one. Popular French actress Isabelle Huppert (who earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her savagely terrific work here) has played complex roles with great range in the past but this is her most stunning role yet.
She deserves high praise for taking on a brave and risky character like this and she goes into directions where you won't expect. For those of you who don't know him, director Paul Verhoeven was in the Hollywood spotlight for twenty years making violent and risqué mainstream releases such as "RoboCop", "Total Recall", "Basic Instinct", "Hollow Man", "Starship Troopers" and of course, the infamous 1995 camp classic "Showgirls" for which he excepted a Worst Director Razzie award.
After making "Hollow Man", Verhoeven left the Hollywood industry and decided to get involved in the kind of films he wanted to make. With "Elle", Verhoeven has scored a major comeback lap and it would be interesting to see what film he makes next. Isabelle Huppert plays Michèle Leblanc, the boss of a successful video game company where her male employees can't stand her. She also feels estranged from her adult son, Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) who's currently in a relationship with Josie (Alice Issaz) his domineering and likely unfaithful pregnant girlfriend.
Michèle also has a contentious relationship with her bitter mother, Irène (Judith Magre) due to her strange and "Ehhhhh.... OKAY!" relationships with younger men and narcissistic behavior towards her. Michèle's father was an infamous mass murderer who at times brought her along when she was 10-years-old during his crime sprees. Meanwhile, Michèle is hanging on to two current affairs, she develops a flirtation with her neighbor, Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) while at the same time clinging on to an affair with Robert (Christian Berkel) who just happens to be the husband of Michèle's best friend and business partner, Anna (Anne Consigny). After being raped by a masked assailant in her home, Michèle tells her friends and ex-husband about it and they are shocked and surprised that she didn't call the police. Michèle didn't phone 911 or report the incident to the police because she is wary of law enforcement.
Being attacked and raped in her home changes Michèle's life forever as she plans to take on the assailant herself. When she does find out who he is, she doesn't call the police. She instead develops a puzzling and curious game with him. What exactly is her motivation here? Is it revenge or is it psychological sexual needs? You need to see the movie and find out for yourself.
"Elle" is an absolute mind-twister of a thriller from director Paul Verhoeven. His direction is swift and he makes the material as lurid and uncomfortable as possible. The screenplay by David Birke which he adapted from Philippe Dijan's novel "Oh..." is as dark as it is disturbing but that's what makes "Elle" so brilliant and mesmerizing.
Isabelle Huppert's performance is brazenly flawless in every way imaginable, so much so I thought she should've won Best Actress over Emma Stone. Go ahead, blast me all you want but Huppert had a more tougher role to play, her character had more range and a lot of big-time actresses would've stayed away from that role. It maybe too raw and graphic for most viewers but "Elle" solidifies Isabelle Huppert as one of the greatest European actresses working today and it's certainly one of the most brutal and glorifying movies from last year.