Rated: R for violence involving sexual assault, disturbing sexual content, some grisly images, brief graphic nudity, and language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: November 11, 2016 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher) embrace their inner perversely deviant child in this new French-language (subtitled) drama, the first for the writer/director of Showgirls and Basic Instinct.
An estimable Huppert (also of I Heart Huckabees) has a gracefully unctuous spunk and spark as Michelle, a video game tycoon with a dark past involving her father who's up for parole. Anne Consigny provides some notable backup as her understanding colleague
Early on, Michelle endures a horrific experience that prompts not only a sad predictability but an unnerving turnabout regarding the masked perpetrator. A sharp cruelty and misogyny will definitely have an effect especially on some distaff viewers based on Michelle's reaction; apparently this diabolical difficulty is meant to rouse, not discourage her. Michelle's spirit appears to have grown by this, and Holland's Verhoeven (who last made the involving Black Book) takes advantage of the character's predilection from the conflict.
Michelle exhibits cynical disdain towards family members as her womanhood moves in surprising (and exciting for her) directions as anxiety gravitates with a certain erotic gratuitousness. Though in the latter parts the momentum ebbs to a degree, the filmmaking and Michelle's motives indicate a tautness which makes her far less distant than early impressions would indicate. The grimly ironic, even snarky wit has a bond with the lasciviousness on hand that puts the dynamics and role playing into audaciousness which may prompt more than few double-takes.
But, as ribald and pungent as Elle can be, it maintains an oddly compelling quality with the concordance of Verhoeven and a laudable Huppert offering masochistic pleasures for what an individual wants and what she may truly deserve.