Student Services (Mes chères études) review: naked ambition

Student Services yellow light Deborah Francois

Well-acted but unsurprising, and far more sad than it is scandalous.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I figure the reason this well-acted but unsurprising 2010 French TV movie is getting a quick DVD release in the U.K. (it’s been available in the U.S. since 2011) is because of Déborah François, currently charming the pants off of audiences here in the delightful retro rom-com Populaire. Pants come off in this flick, too, but there’s nothing charming about it. François is Laura, an impoverished 18-year-old university student who turns herself into a homemade prostitute to pay the bills. She’s got no pimp, no agency, and no clue about what’s she’s getting in to — it’s kinda hard to believe, in fact, that she’s quite as naive as she is, answering ads from skeevy old guys on the Net who want some “tenderness” from a pretty young thing in exchange for a (smallish) pile of euros. Based on an anonymous autobiography that caused a sensation in France (and which does not appear to have been translated into English), this doesn’t sugarcoat the general awfulness of allowing strange men to get their grubby selves all over a gal in exchange for money, but it’s too bad that director and screenwriter Emmanuelle Bercot chose to make the transaction look so appealing from the men’s perspective — and to men in the audience as well — because François is presented as captivatingly innocent, and is frequently completely nude onscreen, while the men never are. (I’m surprised to discover that the French are as squeamish about penises as uptight Americans and Brits are.) She never enjoys the work, but they always do, and they appear to be utterly unaware of this disconnect. Perhaps that’s realistic. But it’s not particularly unexpected.

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