Jeune & Jolie (aka Young & Beautiful) movie review: who says virgin/whore must be a dichotomy?

Jeune and Jolie Young and Beautiful red light

Is she a virgin, or a whore? Surprise, she’s both! This French drama about a teenager is infuriating in its reductive stereotypes.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

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

Is she a virgin, or a whore? Surprise, she’s both! The latest from French writer-director François Ozon (In the House) purports to be a female coming-of-age tale, but it’s yet one more example of a creepy old dude peeking in on a sexy teenaged girl and marveling at just how damn inscrutable women are, even as he makes no attempt whatsoever to try to figure her out as a human being. This year-in-the-life of Isabelle (Marine Vacth) marches through those precious seasons in a young woman’s blossoming when she discovers sex and instantly moves on to prostitution. You know, just like we all experienced, ladies, amirite? In summer, Isabelle turns 17 and has bland, unexciting first-time sex with a cute German boy while her family is vacationing at the beach; he gets off quickly, and she is entirely unmoved by the experience. Cut to autumn, and she is suddenly turning tricks as a call girl, getting old men to pay her for a hotel fuck… and now, she appears to enjoy neither the sex nor the money it brings her, unless maybe it means she can buy herself a fancy Prada handbag. Isabelle is almost a complete nonentity — we have no idea what she wants or why she does what she does — and while I suspect this is meant to be Gallic-ly elegant and “mysterious,” it’s just infuriating. As Isabelle’s year moves on to winter and then spring, it’s hard to see the film as anything other than a disgusting metaphor for women’s sexuality as something we do not enjoy for ourselves but only deploy against men… until we are appropriately chastised and punished for it, of course, and eventually must pass that “talent” on to younger women. There is no insight into female adolescence to be found here — the most Isabelle learns is “get the money upfront” — and the reductive stereotypes are offensive more for their banal, predictable tedium than anything else.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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