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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fat Girl (2001)

There’s a lot that can be said about Fat Girl, Catherine Breillat’s 2001 film about female adolescence, sexuality and rivalry. On the surface, it is a coming of age story that examines sister dynamics. On another level, however, Fat Girl is a film about self-loathing and tragic consequences it can have on young women.

The story concerns two sisters, beautiful 15-year-old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) and pudgy 12-year-old Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) who go on vacation with their mother (Arsinée Khanjian). Elena constants seeks (and receives) attention from men while her sister is forced to make up fantasy suitors and seek solace in double portions. Elena eventually attracts a lothario law student (Libero De Rienzo) who takes her virginity after he promises to marry her. Of ourse she is found out and he disappears; everyone, including the audience and Anaïs knows that the young man is only after sex and nothing more. However, Elena feels pressured to have sex and then feels ashamed of her sexual desire and choice to have sex for the first time.

We sense that Elena has deep insecurities that lead her to constantly need male attention and that her sex appeal and sexual habits lead to a crisis of self-confidence and a self hatred that only becomes apparent at the end of the film. Anaïs, on the other hand, hates herself for not being as pretty as Elena and longs for intimacy while dreading the powerlessness that appears to accompany many young women’s journey into sexual relationships. She sees her sister’s resistance worn down by hours of bedside courtship until, finally, after she hears the words “I love you,” Elena gives in to the pressure. Her sex scenes, incloving anal, oral and eventually, vaginal intercourse, are exhausting and painful to watch. I felt like Anaïs (who is forced to watch all of this because she shares the room with Elena), who cries because, we suspect, she is both disappointed in her sister’s weakness (having sex when she doesn’t yet feel ready) and disappointed that she doesn’t have anyone to try to cajole her. If you think that whole scenario sounds uncomfortable, wait for the ending—It is a disturbing and unexpected solution to the character’s problems.


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