Fat Girl (France/Italy/Spain; 93min.)


directed by: Catherine Breillat
starring: Ana´s Reboux; Roxane Mesquida
À ma soeur!
 
Bruce says: "Everyone fantasizes about their first sexual experience long before it ever happens. Should it be based on love? Is it better that is doesn’t? These questions are the underpinnings of FAT GIRL, a most bizarre glimpse of sexual initiation.

"Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux ) is the fat younger sister. She eats constantly. She has little shape; barely a teenager, her body is matronly. Most of her summer she spends floating (something she does quite well) in the reniform pool at the house her family has rented in a seaside resort town. François Pingot is too much of a workaholic to notice there might be something wrong with his daughter and Madame Pingot (Arsinée Khanjian) is too self-involved to care.

"In contrast, her older sister Elena (Roxane Mesquida) is lithe and voluptuous. Elena has an Italian boyfriend who the two girls meet at a café one afternoon. Fernando (Libero De Rienzo) is older, very handsome and quite sexually insistent. Elena wants to go all the way with Fernando but she is concerned about whether he loves her. Naturally she loves him - but in a way that convinces the viewer that, for Elena, love is merely a vague concept which she is determined to convert into reality. The sisters argue over what their first time should be like. Unlike her sister, Anaïs feels that her first time should be with someone she doesn’t care about.

"Fernando sneaks into the girls’ bedroom night after night. Each time he gains a little more territory. Elena convinces Fernando that Anaïs is a sound sleeper and that she will hear nothing. We know different, however as we see Anaïs feigning sleep, squinting to catch a glimpse or two of what is transpiring across the room. When Fernando offers his grandmother’s ring to Elena as a token of his love and a symbol of their secret engagement, Elena finally gives in.

"When Fernando’s mother comes to visit Madame Pingot everyone learns that the Fernando stole the ring from his mother and that Elena is no longer a virgin. M. Pingot wants her medically examined; Madame Pingot is intent on making Elena feel bad about her experience while blaming her younger sister for what has transpired. What happens afterwards cannot be revealed without ruining the shock effect of the film.

"Is Breillat hell-bent on shocking her audience? She is building quite a portfolio as she creates memorable characters and indelible screen moments. The message Breillat sends out in FAT GIRL is that getting what you hope for can be something beyond your wildest nightmares. On the surface, that reduces FAT GIRL to a short horror story. I think there is more to it than that. Breillat has not fully developed the relationship with the girls and their parents, a missing piece in the puzzle. Nonetheless, there are some good, telltale glimpses of sibling rivalry, and the musings about sexual initiation are on target. Several times I was reminded of SMOOTH TALK, a 1985 film that was based on Joyce Carol Oates short story Where Are You Going, Where Have Your Been? Treat Williams was persistent in breaking down Laura Dern's resolve in spite of her mother's (Mary Kay Place) overprotective maneuvers. And the older sister was the parents' favorite, too

"How great it is to see Arsinée Khanjian, the brilliant Canadian actress and wife of Atom Egoyan, turning up in a French film; too bad she is underutilized. 4 cats"

 
Diane says: "I just want to add a few comments to Michael's:

"FAT GIRL would make a good audience participation movie. I really wanted to throw things at the screen--well, at Fernando--during the scene between him and Elena in her bed (which was a _really_ long scene!). The film would make good required viewing for middle-school girls' sex ed. They could learn to recognize the "lines" that they'll hear many times from boys pressuring them to have sex.

"I really empathized with both girls: the older who wants to believe that sex with Fernando is love; the younger who is jealous of her sister's ability to attract boys, and her experience. It is an excellent portrayal of adolescent fear, attraction, ambivalence towards sexuality.

"Scot, Michael and I talked about a scene in which Anais' (the younger sister) point of view is lost (Elena at the gate with Fernando). It's true that it helps to develop the older sister's character, but I'm still bothered that that is the only major scene in which Anais is not present. A glitch, I think.

"The ending is abrupt, but that's how those kinds of things happen in real life. And it carries the story of the younger sister along. I am _very_ worried about that girl! To handle that the way she did, she must have some mental/emotional illness..... What will become of her??"
 
Jane says: "I agree very much with Michael's assessment of FAT GIRL. I thought the film was very well made and portrayed the anguish of adolescence and difficult family and peer relationships in a sensitive manner. It was interesting to see the exploration of teenage romantic relationships in the context of another culture, as we expect the French to be more open minded than Americans about sex in general. I was especially taken with the poignant examination of how family and society ignorantly show bias against those who don't meet certain standards of beauty. I thought the ending, for the most part, was gripping - very suspenseful. I just think it was a bit heavy handed in it's treatment of the title character, as it appears, in a sense, that a certain wish she had expressed throughout the film had come true."
 
Laura says: "Breillat succeeds in presenting a complex relationship between the two sisters, a love/hate relationship at an age when parents are naturally distanced. While Elena's taunts are cutting, her character nonetheless remains sympathetic as she chooses to ignore Fernando's motives in light of her own insecurities. Anais sullenly hides behind her bulk, but her observations, when voiced, are surprisingly mature. In a well shot scene where the two sisters compare themselves gazing into a mirror, Elena's beautiful features become sharply angular, while a softness shows a hidden beauty in Anais." 3 1/2 cats
For Laura's copmlete review: "http://www.reelingreviews.com/fatgirl.htm"
 
Michael says: "This was a harrowing tale of two sisters, aged 13 and 15. Catherine Breillart's controversial coming-of-age tale focuses on the younger of the two sisters, as she observes her older sister succumb to the deceitful charms of an older man.

I thought FAT GIRL was extremely well put together. Anais, the overweight, 13-year-old watches as her older, attractive sister becomes involved with an older man while the family is vacationing. Except for an extended seduction scene, the film never loses its focus, and contains some insightful scenes that create a disturbing character profile. As Elena succumbs to her view of an perfect romance, Anais stands in for the viewer as we see the way many young girls idealize sex and love. When the man's true colors are shown, the family holiday skids to an abrupt halt. During their journey home, mother and two daughters lead the audience on a tension-filled drive leading to a horrific climax.

Many people dismissed or disliked the ending as out-of-place or unrealistic, but I found it to be a fitting conclusion to the film, and perfectly in line with the rest of the film. True, it's shocking and abrupt, but so is life.

And as Laura commented, Breillart captured the growing tension and feeling of impending doom during the trio's drive from the country. All three of us were squirming in our seats during the highway sequence. Despite the far more extreme violence and horror of the admittedly brilliant ODISHON, I was even more filled with dread as FAT GIRL's conclusion drew near.

Difficult to watch, but on-the-mark in its development of the two sisters, especially Anais, I highly recommend FAT GIRL." 4 Cats