Review: Young and Beautiful
It’s through binoculars that we first catch sight of Isabelle, the title coquette, both indeed young and beautiful, as she sunbathes topless in the French Riviera. She is 17, impressionable, curious, yet independent – or at last she believes herself to be.
Her casual summer relationship with a German jock, to whom she loses her virginity, begins her emotional, intellectual, and sexual maturation. In that first sexual experience, Isabelle completely removes herself from the event, watching herself be taken with an empty gaze.
Director Francois Ozon presents this coming-of-age story across one year, with each season seemingly a change (and a song) in the life of the mysterious Isabelle. We watch as she disregards emotion, giving up her body to the rich in exchange for money once realizing she is so desired. She lies about her age and name and hides her secret prostituted life from family and friends.
Perhaps though she does let feelings seep in, becoming rather warm to an older gent obsessed with her beauty. It’s one of the pieces that doesn’t quite work as well as others; the young girl-older man relationship seems clichéd, and leads to a rather predictable series of events that seem out of place in what could be a more romantic and thoughtful journey.
Marine Vacth gives a very open and honest performance as Isabelle, a girl skirting the thin line between complete control and utter chaos. She is a captivating actress with an ability to be funny and tragic in the same breath, oscillating between seductress and fledgling.
Odd moments riddle the film, and it’s not just the curious selections of music that end each season. Isabelle’s changing relationships with various males, including her little brother and stepfather, are peculiar. Laughter is bred from youthful confusion and adult desires, and whenever there exists an instance of peril, it seems to vanish as quickly as it arrived.
The lyrical nature to the film and beautiful, hypnotic cinematography mostly hide its plot missteps. Like the seasons, though, Young and Beautiful is fairly predictable, even if Isabelle isn’t sure of what she is doing from one moment to the next.