Jeune et Jolie (2013) Film Review from the 57th Annual BFI London Film Festival (LFF), a movie directed by Francois Ozon, starring Marine Vacht, Charlotte Rampling, Frederic Pierrot, Geraldine Pailhas, Nathalie Richard, Akela Sari, Lucas Prisor, and Fantin Ravat.
Among all the great romantic dramas that were released in 2013 Jeune et Jolie is certainly not the best compared for instance to The Spectacular Now and Blue is the Warmest Colour. It is, however, in possession of some great unique characteristics-a quiet tone, gorgeous cinematography, a perfectly performing actress that embodies one of the best characters put in a 2013 film. These specific elements of Jeune et Jolie not only make it a great film but also make it memorable and irresistible. Here we become witness of the quietly struggling teen-the one that hides its feelings subtly and successfully.
On the surface, Isabelle (Vacht) is quiet, beautiful and cold. On the inside she is the very definition of fire-passionate, impossible to control, her heart drowning in chaos. We witness a remarkable transformation-from confusion to a certainty, from insecurity to wielding of absolute control. The girl is flawed but at the same time she is so strong that you forget morality, right and wrong. The whole film is so beautifully shot, as if to assist the actress in the process of conquering your heart. This is the best thing about Ozon’s film-Marine Vacht’s performance and his visual style worshipping her. This is a role that will pave her way next year at the latest to far more popular and successful productions.
Francois Ozon does a good job with presenting to us a near-adult teenager and her swiftly developed mania towards her sexual drive. We don’t get answers of how this beautiful, loved girl chooses to offer paid sexual services to men of all ages. We don’t get her true motives and her determination at any point, not even later when she tries to explain her actions. All we understand is her addiction and the irreversible fact that she wants it. In all honesty, there is no justification for what she is doing and her character knows it. This is how a teenager acts. The mind is not the primary driving force. Plain emotion and passion are what a wild teen’s choices and actions are all about.
This is why we adore Isabelle so much. She seemingly suffers wrongfully at the hands of her 80-year old clients but she likes it. She seemingly leads a good life but she is not satisfied with it. This gorgeous, quiet girl is lost in her perfect world and is attracted to absolutely everything that is wrong. I found this opposition to be undeniably seductive. The way she submerges herself into what is bad and the way she does it with strength, free will and determination won my admiration for the character. A good girl does bad things and we like it. This is why when her mother states ‘She is bad to the bone’ I didn’t feel sad or shocked. I felt thrilled for Isabelle’s wild nature.
The story takes a magnificent turn midway through the film that makes the character and the film twice as intriguing. When Isabelle accepted her nature of a sexually addicted teen in front of the world, she ascended even more in the eyes of the audience. Nobody can stop her-parents, psychiatrists, friends, family, no one. She is the queen of her world-a girl that has experienced it all and is therefore ready to play with the whole world unbothered, unstoppable, the way she wants. There is a scene in which she walks around a club in which other teenagers are dancing, having fun, kissing each other, partying hard and Isabelle is just walking around bored and uninterested. After all she has been through so much more interesting stuff-a simple club party can’t get her interested unless she allows it. This is where Vacht shines the most. Her expressions, reactions, exclamations and her cold ironic looks of dominance show us a girl that has grown up very quickly in her own special way.
Certainly, the other big way in which Marine Vacht demonstrates her acting talent is visible during the moments of her emotional breakdowns. They didn’t break my heart but they silenced me completely. Isabelle doesn’t cry for missing normal things but rather for losing the things that make the unique person she is the happiest. Vacht is completely absorbing. Her tears form and fall naturally with superb expressiveness and subtlety. Her heart-broken weeping sounds natural and hard-hitting. Her performance is a masterful mixture of confusion and certainty in the face of an immoral world.
Jeune et Jolie is a film about the confused, wild teenager, which once misdirected and mishandled can go to great and dangerous lengths in order to find out what makes them happy. At the end the answer is love. Ozon, however, tells us that sometimes the path to happiness is not simply very difficult but sometimes it is just too late to find it. Once you have failed, all you’ve got left is your passions and your instincts. Jeune et Jolie is a great film about one such chaotic, strong, out of control teen who is looking for her own answers because she (Isabelle) is the only one who can find them.