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Film review: 'Elle'

Isabelle Huppert doesn't disappoint in this thrilling bait-and-switch revenge story.


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  • | 4:15 p.m. January 31, 2017
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Isabelle Huppert is an actor who never disappoints. She has that rare gift of speaking volumes with the mere raising of an eyebrow or flip of the hair. In her new film, "Elle," she delivers an unforgettable performance as a woman who's quietly bent on seeking revenge. And it's severely sweet.

In the opening scene, Michele LeBlanc (Huppert) is brutally raped by a masked man in her home. Immediately after he exits, she nonchalantly sweeps up debris strewn about during the attack, takes a bubble bath and then orders take-out. She never reports the crime to police but mentions it in passing at dinner out with friends. As we glean insight into her past, Michele's steely persona seems quite justifiable. 

 

What begins as a whodunit evolves into a bait-and-switch scenario. But due to her unpredictability, it's virtually impossible to know where Michele's headed. As a successful video game executive, she shocks us with her utter lack of morality and dangerous sexual indiscretions. Her outrageously horny mother, deadbeat son, best friend and ex-husband act as though Michele's behavior is a given, best not to affront. You don't want to tangle with Michele.

Director Paul Verhoeven ("Basic Instinct") manages to take victimization to the level of humor at times in "Elle." Some might find it irresponsible; others will revel in his ability to pull it off. Either way, he has created a thrilling game whose players will catch you off guard at every turn. Especially the one who's pulling all the strings.

 

Huppert's performance is a brilliant balancing act, her very best. Witnessing her juggle psychotic, sexually deviant behavior with that of a woman in total control is a perverse pleasure. Huppert's immense talent propels "Elle" to masterpiece status and a long awaited first Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It's about time. Bravo.