By Don Simpson | September 15, 2012
Director: Malgoska Szumowska
Writers: Malgoska Szumowska, Tine Byrckel
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Anaïs Demoustier, Joanna Kulig, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Krystyna Janda, Andrzej Chyra, Ali Marhyar, Jean-Marie Binoche, François Civil, Pablo Beugnet, Valérie Dréville, Jean-Louis Coullo’ch, Arthur Moncla, Scali Delpeyrat, Laurence Ragon, Alain Libolt, Swann Arlaud, Nicolas Layani, Laurent Jumeaucourt, José Fumanal, Martine Vandeville, Jenny Bellay, Tom Henin
Anne (Juliette Binoche) is a Parisian journalist researching an article for Elle magazine. Two young prostitutes — Charlotte/”Lola” (Anaïs Demoustier) and Alicja (Joanna Kulig) — are the subjects of her story. Anne begins the series of interviews with a disapproving and somewhat condescending attitude, but she soon realizes that Charlotte and Alicja are much happier than she is. Charlotte and Alicja have nothing to worry about (except for having an occasional wine bottle shoved up their arse). Their clients are old married men, so STD’s are deemed irrelevant concerns. Money is incredibly easy, which allows them to experience more freedom and happiness than anyone else in the film. Most of all, they are sexually active and enjoying it.
All the while, Anne’s life is total shit. She is stuck in a loveless marriage in which she must juggle mothering, housekeeping and cooking with her career as a journalist. The kitchen is like Anne’s battlefield; when she is not wrestling with the refrigerator, she is accidentally cutting herself. Anne’s son Florent (François Civil) rebels against his parents’ loveless relationship by skipping school in favor of smoking marijuana and drawing. Her younger son Stephane (Pablo Beugnet) spends the majority of his waking hours playing video games. Nobody shows even an inkling of appreciation for Anne’s hard work.
Writer-director Malgoska Szumowska’s Elles is as heavy-handed and forceful as message films get. Essentially, marriage and parenthood are evil and restricting, while prostitution is the perfect career path for attractive young women in search of quick cash. Oh, and men are all — to quote the great American philosopher Paula Abdul — cold-hearted snakes.