Weight on the sidelines
"Fat Girl" is a dark portrayal of one girl's adolescent tribulations through the eyes of her chubbier sister, who could only dream of sharing her sister's problems.
By KRISTINA FELICIANO
(Originally reviewed at the New York Film Festival in September 2001.)
The French film "Fat Girl" is nominally about a
chubby preteen who has suffered for her failure to
measure up to contemporary standards of beauty. But it
is also a brilliantly dark portrayal of adolescent
alienation and the little tyrannies of youthful
Anais is the preteen title character whose most
reliable ally is food. She is at best a barely
tolerated outcast in her handsome family, and she is
unfortunate enough to be aware of this fact.|
She's also quite witty. At a meal with her family and
her sister's boyfriend, she prepares a heaping plate
of food for herself, provoking a derisive remark from
her father. I was afraid it would all go, she replies.
And when her older sister, 15-year-old Elena (Liv
Tyler doppelganger Roxane Mesquida), asks her if it
would be wrong to allow her boyfriend to have vaginal
sex with her (they've already had anal intercourse),
an exasperated Anais tells her there's "no moral
Newcomer Anais Reboux, as the title character,
matches her stocky body and lumbering gait with
stubborn resilience and a window into her character's
cobbled-together inner life. The movie is set during a
family vacation, and in one scene, she swims back and
forth in a pool between a sun deck and a ladder,
pretending each is a demanding lover and bestowing
kisses and conciliatory words.
Her sister, meanwhile, is preoccupied with a new
beau, a law student taken by her considerable beauty.
Too young to go about on her own, she drags Anais with
her on her clandestine visits with him. Anyone above
the age of 18 can tell where the couple's superficial
romance is going, but it is our and Elena's fate that
it must be played out.|
Theirs is a typical teen courtship, complete with
too-soon declarations of love and young lovers' logic
he presents his desire for sex as a "demonstration
of love," and she hears love in his desire for sex.
But just as their sweet nothings are comfortingly
familiar, the couple's sex scenes are familiarly
The seduction of Elena takes place in the room she
shares with Anais, who pretends to be asleep in her
bed while her sister negotiates for her virginity.
Director Catherine Breillat, never known for timidity
in on-screen matters of the flesh (her 1999 movie
"Romance" featured real sex scenes) presents the
lovers in close-up while they talk but cuts to a
weeping Anais, no longer feigning slumber, when they
Again we witness Anais' isolation and her loneliness.
There's jealousy here, too, not just of Elena but of
the boy who wins her unequivocal attention and
admiration. As rivalrous and often emotionally abusive
as their relationship may be (Elena constantly insults
Anais), the girls have moments of closeness that
appear to be Anais' only source of pure joy.
The movie, after all this dreary but absorbing drama,
turns violent in a shocking ending that I won't spoil
here. The final scenes were based on a news story
Breillat read in a paper years ago.
Some moviegoers may find what happens as senseless as
the original, real-life acts were. But it might be
easier to think of the finale as Anais' dream come
true a dream imagined by an overlooked,
underappreciated girl whose fantasy life was always
much more satisfying than anything she ever
experienced, and certainly anything she ever ate.
|OCTOBER 12, 2001|
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