Elles - Trailer

Juliette Binoche stars in Elles as a French magazine journalist whose research for a story on female students supporting themselves through prostitution starts to influence and subtly upend her own life.

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ELLES (R18+) ** ½

Palace Electric


Louis-Do de Lencquesaing and Juliette Binoche in the film Elles.

Louis-Do de Lencquesaing and Juliette Binoche in the film Elles.

Men are pigs. I think that's the take-home from Malgorzata Szumowska's interesting film, equal parts titillating and disturbing.

Anne (Juliette Binoche) is a mother-of-two and leading journalist for Elle magazine. She places an ad in the paper to find prostitutes to speak about their work for an article, and as she listens to the stories of Charlotte (Anais Demoustier) and Alicja (Joanna Kulig) who quite like the work, their clients and the things the money allows them to buy, Anne begins to seriously question the things she has valued.

Suddenly her beautiful apartment feels constraining, keeping her sons on track and entertaining for her husband's career are less fulfilling, and her marriage …

Anais Demoustier in Elles.

Anais Demoustier in Elles.

This is a woman's sexy mid-life-crisis film in the vein of Jane Campion's In The Cut.

Unfortunately, it isn't that involving, even if the performances are very good.

Binoche won an Oscar for her turn in The English Patient which makes my friend Liz want to drive her car into a tree. Even Liz would agree that, in Elles at least, Binoche is an actress worthy of an Oscar. She is mesmerising. She has been perfectly fine in an endless array of unworthy fodder over the past years which I hope bought her a few houses and a nice portfolio of shares. With that kind of security, hopefully she continues to take a few risks like this.

Polish filmmaker Szumowska wrote the screenplay with Tine Byrckel and while her direction is fine, she could have used a stronger editor on the script, which tends to reduce complex issues and to smack you over the head with its various points, repeatedly.

Sex is a commodity, Szumowska seems to be implying, and women - hooker, housewife or journalist - are simply exchanging their goods for services. I think. I was a bit busy shifting uncomfortably in my seat.

There's cunnilingus, there's grunting, and one guys even blanks on blank blank blank (I'm saving the editor a bit of work here). Which is to say that this is not the kind of film you want to take your mum to.

It would, however, make an interesting double bill with Sleeping Beauty.