Cinema Review: Young & Beautiful | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, October 30th, 2020  

Young & Beautiful

Studio: Sundance Selects
Directed by Francois Ozon

Apr 23, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Francois Ozon’s quiet sexual drama raises more questions than it answers and perhaps that was the intent, for better or worse. The film begins with the beautiful Isabelle—on the cusp of her 17th birthday—losing her virginity to a German tourist while on a summer beach vacation with her family. She has no affection for the boy, who seems to have been almost randomly selected by the girl for the sole purpose of her deflowering. She’s disappointed by the experience, and returns to Paris without saying goodbye to the young man.

The film suddenly jumps to that autumn, and Isabelle—with makeup expertly applied, wearing sky-high heels—is riding an escalator into a high-end hotel. She goes to a specific room, and knocks. She’s greeted by an elderly man, who addresses her as “Lea,” and comments on how young she looks. They have sex, he pays for it, and she leaves. The rest of the film follows young Isabelle’s first forays into prostitution, and the fallout once her parents eventually find out.

The question central to Young & Beautiful is, why does she do it? Isabelle doesn’t need the money, and her home life seems happy enough. The young girl—played by Marine Vacth—keeps her thoughts and emotions guarded behind a hostile demeanor. The audience is forced to interpret her motives through the people around her. Isabelle’s relationship with her younger brother is the film’s most interesting; the boy, in the throes of puberty, is complicit in his sister’s action, covering for her when she sneaks out on her sexual adventures in the hopes that she’ll share with him a nugget of carnal knowledge on her return. It’s easier to relate, however, with Isabelle’s poor mother (Geraldine Pailhas) who can only wonder what she did so wrong that led her moody, teenage daughter into a life as a belle de jour. We’re left wondering, as well. In the end, that lack of answer—and dearth of clues—frustrated more than it compelled.

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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