Jeune Et Jolie (Young And Beautiful) (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/11/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

The latest film from writer-director Francois Ozon is an engagingly provocative French drama with an enigmatic central performance from newcomer Marine Vacth, and a superbly written script that steers commendably clear of the expected clichés.

What's it all about?
Directed by Francois Ozon, Jeune et Jolie (Young and Beautiful) stars Marine Vacth as Isabelle, a beautiful 17 year old teenager from a comfortably well-off family who loses her virginity to an attractive, slightly older German boy (Lucas Prisor) while on summer vacation but appears curiously unmoved by the experience. The film then flashes forward to the autumn where Isabelle, now back in Paris, has started a lucrative career as a high-class call girl, visiting clients in hotels.

Meanwhile, neither Isabelle's liberal-minded mother (Geraldine Pailhas), her kindly step-father (Frederic Pierrot), her devoted, inquisitive younger brother (Fantin Ravat) nor her closest school friend (Nathalie Richard) have any idea what she's up to. However, a traumatic experience with a kindly, older regular (Johan Leyson) brings the police to her family's door, forcing Isabelle to confront the reality of her situation.

The Good
Newcomer Marine Vacth is superb as Isabelle, delivering an enigmatic performance that keeps you guessing at both her feelings and her motivations – for example, she clearly doesn't need the money and she also doesn't seem interested in the sex itself, though it's clear she enjoys her dressed up, slightly older alter-ego (she calls herself Lea on each job). There's also strong support from Pailhas and Pierrot, though Ravat is disappointingly under-used after some promising early scenes.

The film is beautifully shot, courtesy of cinematographer Pascal Marti and the camera clearly loves Vacth as she's mesmerising throughout. In addition, the film is intriguingly structured, taking place over four seasons, each of which is accompanied by a different Francoise Hardy song.

The Great
Ozon's provocative script skilfully avoids all the expected clichés (while still cleverly toying with audience expectations in that regard) and the film is commendably non-judgemental over Isabelle's decision (the worst thing that happens to her is that a cameoing Stefano Cassetti doesn't pay her what he's promised), just as Isabelle herself remains unashamed when she's found out (she rightly identifies much worse behaviour in her mother). However, this move backfires slightly because it ends up making prostitution look like quite an attractive career option.

Worth seeing?
Well made and superbly acted, Jeune et Jolie is an engaging and provocative French drama that steers refreshingly clear of the expected clichés. Recommended.

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Jeune Et Jolie (Young And Beautiful) (18)
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Content updated: 17/10/2017 14:06

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