Drama | Thriller
Isabelle Huppert, Christian Berkel, Anne Consigny, Virginie Efira, Laurent Lafitte, Charles Berling, Alice Isaaz, Judith Magre, Vimala Pons, Jonas Bloquet, Lucas Prisor, Arthur Mazet, Raphael Lenglet
Wealthy entrepreneur Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her.
Although I haven't seen any of Paul Verhoeven's films, his reputation precedes him and therefore I know of his provocative films. And I haven't seen any of Isabelle Huppert's films either, but she is famous for playing demanding roles. Given all the acclaim both the film and Huppert's performance got thought, I decided to watch "Elle", a provocative and bizarre psychological thriller that makes for a great character study.
Focused on sexuality and violence, the story is rather complex and because of its multiple, parallel storylines it can get hard to follow, but if you give it the attention it deserves, carefully following the events, you will be rewarded with a gripping, intense story filled with surprises and twists. As the identity of the rapist is revealed I was expecting the film to stall, but Verhoeven still was able to create tension through one interesting concept: how far would one go to explore (and perhaps understand) another's twisted sexuality? And he also explores masochism.
The story and its execution, however, aren't the film's greatest strength. That's the role played by Michèle, the main character. Michèle is a tough, ruthless woman who doesn't stop at nothing and nobody to get what she wants. She is a quite unlikable character still you'll find yourself on her (elle's) side, as her traumatic past is brought up and makes the character more interesting.
To portray such a strong character you need a great actress and Isabelle Huppert is that. She gives such a superb and intense performance, you can't simply take your eyes off of her. The way she carries the whole film and the incredible emotional journey of Michèle is mindblowing.
The unfortunate thing about "Elle" is that the supporting characters aren't very interesting and developed - it is supposed to be all about her though - and the supporting cast just doesn't keep up with the great work from Huppert.