Elle

First Hit:  An excellent, detailed and complex study of a woman who has had a life filled with misfortune.

Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is strong, independent and lives in a large home in Paris. Although there is a hint of compassion in her eyes, she is a coldish acting company owner that creates video games. There is a power struggle with one of her game developers but she’s supported by her assistant Anna (Anne Consigny) who is a longtime friend.

To develop Michele’s character, we witness her being raped and the filmmakers choose to show us this multiple times from slightly different perspectives in the first third of the film. She is having an affair. She supports her mom Irene (Judith Magre), who continues to have plastic surgery and courts young men to sleep with. Her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) is in a relationship with Josie (Alice Isaaz), a woman she doesn’t approve of because this girl is somewhat abusive of her son.

There are other things going on in her life, but it is the slow unfolding about her childhood and reason her father is in jail that provides context to her direct coolness in dealing with the people in her life.

As the film winds towards its end, Michele learns more about herself and the deep-rooted feelings residing within while beginning to change what needs to be changed.

The reuse of the rape scene, although difficult to watch, was effective because each time she (and we the audience) learns something about herself. It was a risky film making move and it worked. The work environment felt current in that the way the staff interacted. Each scene in this film had a place and a reason although, at times when the scene played out, it seemed over done or misplaced.

Huppert was excellent in this role. Her intelligence, beauty, and clarity in this role came through powerfully. She was the film. Cosingy was very good as Michele’s best friend and work partner. Magre was funny and excellent as the woman who wanted to defy what happened to her family. Bloquet was interesting as the son that was ruled by his mom and wanted to begin to define his own territory. Laurent Lafitte was really good as the neighbor who had things to hide. Isaaz was perfect as the on-edge girlfriend with a power chip on her shoulder. David Birke wrote a complex screenplay that was effectively film and directed by Paul Verhoeven.

Overall:  This was a complex film as reflected by the complex character.