A layer of “icky” hangs over the French drama “An Easy Girl (Une fille facile)” that highlights the truism that “The French are different from us.”
That French reluctance to “tsk tsk” predatory older men hooking up with very young women or girls, which tends to explain their Polanski Tolerance, remains creepy. Even if a woman directs the film, even as it has plenty of judgement about the practice and warnings about the perils it entails for the girls and women, “icky” still applies.
This coming-of-age story, a Cannes award winner, is about a pivotal summer in the life of 16 year-old Naïma (Mina Farid), a summer she spends with her voluptuous “sophisticated” cousin Sofia (Zahia Dehar).
Sofia is all curves and makeup and topless tanning, seemingly unflappable about how she comes off, a Bridget Bardot bombshell who aspires to look like — perhaps with the aid of plastic surgery — Sophia Loren.
Sofia never carries cash, never worries about picking up a check, and is bedecked in baubles and designer clothing and accessories. And what impressionable Naïma learns from her this summer on the French Riviera — where Naïma’s single-mom is a luxury hotel maid — is what the English language gossip websites have labeled “yachting.”
Sofia turns heads and draws men like bees to honey. A semi-secluded piece of rocky beach, the top comes off and binoculars are raised, boats approach. And eventually, invitations come with them.
“Carpe diem” is tattooed on her lower back. “Feelings don’t matter” to Sofia any more than the judgment of others. Naïma just broke up with her boyfriend.
“What did he give you?” is Sofia’s question (in French, with English subtitles). She’s speaking rhetorically, but also materially Sofia is a big “Put it on Mr. Montero’s account” shopper.
That’s her latest catch. Andres (Nuno Lopes) and his friend Phillipe (Benoît Magimel of “The Piano Teacher”) are idling through summer on his motor yacht, “Winning Streak.” They while away the hours, picking at a guitar, contemplating the nature of wealth and beauty.
“Beauty you don’t want to possess, but admire.”
“You have to be a little poor, or have been poor to be really rich,”to best appreciate wealth and its trappings.
Sofia and Andres start a fling and Naïma — forsaking a summer internship in the resort kitchen and acting auditions with her gay BFF Dodo (Lakdhar Dridi) — tags along, not as chaperone but as the fourth wheel.
“I’d like to be a ‘dangerous woman,’ too!”
Phillipe takes on the role of fatherly concern and conscience. Casting a believable, ordinary-looking girl as Naïma makes that notion an easy sell.
Sex, skin, scenery and aspirational affluence are the Netflix selling points here. But director/co-writer Rebecca Zlotowski made this a drama, not a comedy. She’s leaning towards cultural commentary.
The men range from misogynist trolls to “I’m rich so she’s within reach” predators.
Sofia is more self-aware than she lets on, even if she seems impossible to insult. But there’s no cunning to her guile. She’s recently lost her mother and she’s found a way to live. Naïma must be tempted by this, and either reach for it or reject it.
A boat trip to an Italian isle puts them in the company of the wealthy and worldly Calypso (Clotilde Courau), who “tests” Sofia and reveals a snobbery that suggests “yachting” has been around a lot longer than crazydaysandnights.net.
The morality here is as predictable as the story arc, and the unsavory taste of it all a turn-off. Dehar’s got a hint of Kardashian in her exaggerated features, which adds to that.
But if the French are going to start looking askance at their cinema-defined version of gold-digging and April-September “romances,” good for them. Seeing something as “icky” doesn’t make the rest of the world prudes.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, explicit sex, nudity, teen drinking
Credits: Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, script by Rebecca Zlotowski and Teddy Lussi-Modeste. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:32