Idiotic girl

Anaïs Reboux suns herself in <i>Fat Girl</i>: Paging Sir Mix-A-Lot …

Anaïs Reboux suns herself in Fat Girl: Paging Sir Mix-A-Lot …

Rated 1.0

The original French title of Fat Girl, Catherine Breillat’s latest gob of snooty Eurotrash, is À Ma Soeur!—“to my sister.” And with an exclamation point, no less. Considering what happens to the sister in the movie, I’d say the dinner conversation at the next Breillat family get-together should be pretty interesting. Forty years ago, low-budget movie meister Roger Corman said that the reason French movies were so popular in the United States was that they showed nudity. When our movies caught up with that, he said, the American fetish for French cinema would dry up overnight. Corman had a point. To regain their lost edge in producing high-tone porn, French filmmakers like Leos Carax (whose Pola X in 1999 boasted five minutes of murky hardcore sex) and Breillat in Romance that same year and now in Fat Girl have had to resort to pushing the outside of the envelope—in other words, making movies dirtier and dirtier.

Are you curious about the plot? The fat girl of the title is pouty Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux), whose older sister Elena (Roxane Mesquida) is slimmer, prettier and randier. On vacation with the family, Elena comes on to Fernando (Libero De Rienzo) at a cafe, invites him over for dinner, then sneaks him into the bedroom she and Anaïs share. They have anal sex (so Elena can remain a virgin) while Anaïs watches. A few nights later Fernando returns, after having given Elena an opal ring he stole from his mother. This turns out to be enough to talk her out of her virginity.

Then, let’s see, a few more things happen. Anaïs eats incessantly, when she’s not glaring sullenly at her sister or parents or strangers. The girls go to the beach. Fernando’s mother shows up to reclaim her ring. Anaïs, Elena and their mother (Arsinée Khanjian) head home from vacation, and Breillat eats up a lot of footage with shots of their car weaving in and out of freeway traffic. Eventually, as the saying goes, tragedy strikes, in a way that makes no more sense, even on its own terms, than the rest of the film.

Between the scenes of teen-porn that are the film’s main purpose (Elena even leaves the lights on so we can see everything clearly without any pesky nighttime shadows), Breillat indulges the penchant she showed in Romance for pretentious, idiotic dialogue. Anaïs says to Elena: “It’s true, when I hate you then I look at you and I can’t, it’s like hating part of myself. That’s why I loathe you so violently. … ” Elena says to Anaïs: “You have no rights, whereas I have a say in your life. We hate each other because we’re raised as rivals.” In one extended scene the sisters watch a TV show in which a woman is interviewed about “sexual issues” and Brigitte Bardot. “She’s a case, not an issue,” says the interviewer; the woman retorts, “She’s a case, so she is an issue.”(Where do we ever hear such conversations, other than in bad French drama?)

I once acted in a production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and complained to a friend of the poor translation that made the dialogue so stilted and phony. She shook her head. “No,” she said, “it’s that bad in French, too.” Catherine Breillat enjoys a certain vogue among trendy American critics exactly because her movies are so explicitly sexual. The reasoning seems to be that it’s a sign of some sort of courage; she must have a serious purpose for showing us all this. “If a movie can disturb me this much,” they think, “it must be saying something important.” That’s why Fat Girl is being sold, and in some quarters received, as a sensitive coming-of-age drama.

But I don’t think many women are going to identify with the adolescent travails of Fat Girl; it’s certainly like no coming of age I’ve ever seen. It’s sex and violence, rape and murder, laced with silly dialogue.

Hey, dirty movies can be fun, everybody knows that. But the fact that the characters are speaking French and mumbling in gaseous pensées doesn’t mean we should kid ourselves about why we’re watching.