Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(French with English subtitles)
Directed by: Francois Ozon
Written by: Francois Ozon
Starring: Marine Vacth, Charlotte Rampling, Frederic Pierrot, Geraldine Pailhas, Nathalie Richard, Akela Sari, Lucas Prisor & Fantin Ravat
YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL takes many different topics in its 93 minutes: addiction, sexual awakening, depression, and a deepening web of lies. If it does all of these things well is another matter entirely. Director/writer Francois Ozon has created a story that doesn’t carve out a single character worth caring for and a script that ends with a mere apathetic shrug. The film looks good and the music is fantastic. These good qualities are negated by the end result being purely middle of the road.
Isabelle is a 17-year-old girl who casually loses her virginity to a German tourist on a summer vacation. Discovering her sexual urges, Isabelle becomes a prostitute which leads to a double-life of keeping secrets from her naïve family and facing degradation at the hands of much older men. Isabelle finds comfort in one client, but all good things cannot last and her secret life is beginning to arouse suspicions from her mother. Will her sexual addiction and prostitution be the end of her well-being?
There isn’t a whole lot to say about YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL, so this won’t be a long review. A few interesting stretches result from a couple of good plot points, particularly Isabelle’s relationship with a far older customer extending kindness to her that she doesn’t receive from the other men she services. This thread also takes a turn that I didn’t see coming and provides 20 minutes of solid momentum. Unfortunately, the film wastes this opportunity and many others to craft an emotionally powerful story. The character of Isabelle is cold and damn near emotionless. Part of this might be attributed to a subpar performance from Marine Vacth, but this happens with nearly every single character in the movie as well. I counted two people who I actually slightly felt anything towards and they aren’t prevalent throughout the whole film. Instead this is Isabelle’s show and she’s a hard character to relate to. In order for the viewer to give any sympathy for a person in Isabelle’s predicament, it requires having a genuine emotion towards them. I felt apathetic about anything that should happen to this girl and the movie never takes the time to give any sort of development for her.
YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL takes place in the course of one year. I know this because title cards informed me which season the film was taking place in. For all the care it was given, I would have guessed this movie was taking place in a single month’s time, but those title cards informed me otherwise. The best comparison I can give YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL is to a running joke in an episode of SEINFIELD in which frequent references are made to an overly artsy, pretentious sexual awakening film called “Rochelle Rochelle.” YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL comes off as the kind of flick Seinfield, George, Elaine, and Kramer were mocking. I can appreciate an arthouse romance (although it was very overrated, I thought BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR was decent), there’s no excuse for how bland YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL comes off. I was left squarely in the middle of the road after this movie concluded and sometimes, that’s worse than sitting through an altogether terrible film.