Movie Review: French Canadian teen aspires to be a “Slut in a Good Way”

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Charlotte and her pals Mégane and Aube spend an afternoon hunting through the sex shop for bustiers. She’s dying to find something to turn on Samuel, her beau, and she won’t let Aube’s naivete (she’s a virgin) or Mégane’s anti-romantic/anti-capitalist cynicism deter her.

Because she’s just 17, and as the Beatles sang… But it’s OK, because the girls are French — well, French Canadian, anyway.

“Slut in a Good Way” is a funny, thought-provoking teen romance/sex comedy in French, a light romp that never quite romps and doesn’t quite touch or delight. Smart, sexy and sassy, it’s a movie which director Sophie Lorain keeps at arm’s length from the viewer — partly because of the austere and frankly “adult” black and white cinematography, partly because of the subtitling (for non-French speakers).

Only in the “Bend it Like Beckham” closing credits does this funny-but-potentially-hilarious picture achieve “giddy,” and kind of makes us wish she’d figure that tone out a lot sooner.

Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard) sees her predicament begin in that lingerie department as Mégane (Romane Denis) shows off sexy French maid costumes and Aube (Rose Adam) toys with le dildos.

The bustier — Charlotte only found out they exist on “Youporn” — doesn’t do the trick. Samuel is, it turns out, gay. As she weeps and wails and tries to get her friends to see that she’s 17, in love, and they can still work things out, her mates look to distract her.

Ducking into a vast toy store, Toy Depot, does the trick. It’s not the floor-to-ceiling kiddie games, dolls and baubles that get their attention. It’s the young, cute college-age guys who scoot by on skateboards and make yummy eye contact as they stock the shelves.

Three applications later and the girls are hired for the holidays, job-shadowing the very guys that they found so appealing just a day before.

Aube longs for the attentions of Olivier (Vassili Schneider). Mégane dismisses the idea of “falling in love” there, and the urge to “be too productive on our first day. That leads to exploitation!”

Charlotte? She shadows Guillaume (Alex Godbout ) and coyly lets him flirt in a non flirtatious way with her. She’s all set to ignore Mégane’s warning about “falling in love” when her second day of job shadowing puts her under the spell of dark, handsome and handsy Francis (Anthony Therrien).

That’s how she begins the wide swath she cuts through male staff of Toy Depot in just a matter of weeks.

She’s become obsessed with Maria Callas crooning Bizet’s “Habanera” from “Carmen” — “Love me not, then I love you; if I love you, you’d best beware!”

It’s the consequences of living and loving like that, or of indeed of Callas — used by men all of her professional and personal life — that wakes Charlotte up. It’s not the pregnant colleague (Mary Belugou) who, just two years older, confesses “My life is over!”

It’s peer pressure. Toy Depot is a veritable petrie dish of young love and young lovers, and she’s busting up couples and peeing in the pool everybody swims in. She’s caught in the middle of a war, with the males competing to see who beds the most females.

Maybe Aristophanes had the answer.

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The world depicted here — teen vulgarians utterly free of parents or adults of any kind — is bracing and a little unsettling. Left to their own devices, the girls cadge free sixpacks from a guy with a rush on Mégane, who is cagey enough to make us wonder what she’s hiding, or hiding from.

Méganeis a budding communist who could be formulating a political philosophy that combines Che Guevara with Gandhi ….except she’s working 15 hours a week for $130 (Canadian) in pay! Miss Instant Attitude Problem complains — LOUDLY — in front of the customers and calls for the Revolution to begin in Toy Depot.

“Why shouldn’t we start giving everything away?”

Aube just pines away, getting nowhere with the boys, ungainly and tall and insecure enough to lie about her sexual experience.

And they’re both trapped in the shadow of Charlotte, who isn’t smarter or prettier than either of them. She’s just more sexual, and not bothered by being “easier.”

The lack of adults in this world means the younger kids are schooled by slightly older co-workers, male and female.The girls come down on Charlotte hard, but it’s Guillaume’s offhand remarks in their banter and slower courtship that let her see what her “reputation” is costing her.

He figured she was just having a rebound fling, “beaucoup rebounds!” She recoils at that realization.

The young cast here is game for whatever rude or crude (sexual or scatological) trick the filmmakers throw at them, with Bouchard walking a fine tightrope between worldly and sexualized, and just a kid with no perspective and little of the guile it takes to hold your own in the Battle of the Sexes.

Denis makes Mégane so interesting she deserves her own movie.

 

Where “Slut in a Good Way” comes up short is in the romance, not giving us a romance we can root for. Warmth all around is lacking, and it might have helped to give more screen time to the two friends’ love lives, allowing them character arcs.

There are scattered laughs, but even at her most hedonistic, Charlotte and her experiences never build up any sort of Amy Schumer head of steam.

“Slut in a Good Way” is promising enough that when Hollywood or English-language indie cinema takes its shot at this story — and you know they will — it won’t take much course correction to make it soar.

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MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, drug use, drinking, and language – all involving teens.

Cast: Marguerite Bouchard, Romane Denis, Rose Adam, Alex Godbout, Anthony Therrien, Marylou Belugou

Credits: Directed by Sophie Lorain, script by Catherine Léger.   A Comedy Dynamics release.

Running time: 1:29

 

 

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