Monday, August 17, 2020

Scandaleuse: AN EASY GIRL

An Easy Girl is another one of those French movies about a young person on vacation with a sexually liberated older friend or relative. That’s as standard as it gets. But, just like the let’s-put-on-a-show musical or underdog-sports-success story or any number of standard movie plots, sometimes you just want to see a solid director play that subgenre’s hits. There’s a reason so many keep trying to make these. When they work they work. Here we find sixteen-year-old Na├»ma (Mina Farid) lazily enjoying the beaches of Cannes with her slightly older cousin, Sofia (Zahia Dehar). (Those with a passing knowledge of recent-ish French sex scandals might find some extra-textual interest in the casting of the latter.) Their ages are, of course, a time of life when a few years makes all the difference. The older girl loves sunning topless, ingratiating herself in others’ hangouts, and catching the attention of rich older men. One morning neither girl has the money to pay for their cafe breakfast, and the older one casually admits that she never brings money with her. She can always find someone willing to pay. And so the movie goes, as the younger girl is by turns suspicious or jealous of, drawn to and pulled away from her cousin. It’s never all that surprising, but director Rebecca Zlotowski (of the recent Natalie Portman picture Planetarium) gives the proceeding a beautifully photographed sensitivity. The camera loves the sun catching the ocean waves, or a drop of water sliding on bare skin. But it is also attuned to the subtle dynamics of this social scene, to the ways in which each girl tries to bury her feelings of inadequacy—caught out on a claim, or lost in a group dynamic. And Zlotowski is willing to slip in the sort of details even a slightly more single-mindedly ogling version of this sort of thing might not, like a pair of boat staffers slipping each other a knowing glance as their older male boss leads what we can only presume is, for them, just yet another pretty young girl on board. It’s a movie that picks a simple, familiar set of ideas, then lets its actors gently complicate even as the camera luxuriates. Those of us who are Francophile cinephiles will be happy to see it’s a perfectly fine example of its type. It’s exactly what you’d expect. Netflix, which purchased the film out of the festival circuit, warns viewers it contains nudity and smoking. As Orson Welles once slurred, “Ah, the French.”

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