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Fat Girl - Criterion Collection (2001)

Classics and Drama movie directed by Catherine Breillat

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Breillat on her usual themes of sexuality

  • May 2, 2007
I have seen "Anatomy of Hell" and posted a review over a year ago but Amazon refuse to post it.........what did I say? Anyway brash, aggressive, meaningful, and yet ultimately absurd, "Fat Girl" is so intensely polarizing that it leaves no room for neutrality. Overweight Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) is a heartbreakingly self-conscious 12-year-old girl who lives in the shadow of her blossoming older sister, Elena, who has fallen in love with Fernando (Libero De Rienzo), a smooth-talking lothario. When he sneaks into the girls' bedroom at night, Anaïs listens in painful detail to her sister's sexual initiation. In this scene and others, the film is so upfront and candid that it creates an uncomfortable viewing experience.

"Fat Girl" isn't a perfect movie. Many people will find it too slow, too static, not enough "happening" to keep their attention. But there is a lot going on--it's just under the skin, where most movies don't typically look. One example of the movie's insight comes when that no-good Fernando gives Elena a ring as a token of his "love", except that how he obtained it and under what pretenses only comes out later to paint the whole thing with a double layer of irony. Another moment comes when we see the sisters together, using words that are both hurtful and reassuring. They are unquestionably in competition, but they are also still sisters, and perhaps they cannot help but care about each other.

The end of "Fat Girl" contains a development so sudden and unexpected that it derails the film for many people. They actually get angry about it. They feel betrayed by the movie--betrayed that it spends so much time involving us emotionally in these characters, only to do something that seems entirely arbitrary. I felt betrayed as well, until I realized something--the betrayal we feel, as viewers, is very much the same betrayal that the girls themselves feel for having been treated so badly by their parents, by a prospective lover, and by each other. No, the ending will not work for every audience, but it has an audacity and a guiding sensibility, and it is nowhere nearly as arbitrary as you might want to think. Criterion! That one word alone should make this a must-have if you're interested in the film.

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Quick Tip by . July 20, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Vacationing in a dreary coastal resort, a vapid beauty of fifteen years (Roxane Mesquida) succumbs to assignation with a seductive Roman law student (Libero De Rienzo) while her plump, saturnine sister (Anaïs Reboux) of twelve jealously surveils their congress, enacts notional trysts and ruminates on her anomie and nascent sexuality. A mutual envy binds and agonizes this sororal pair: the younger covets her sib's effortless pulchritude and sequent fulfillment while her senior dimly espies …
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About this movie


Fat Girl is a typically shocking, utterly discomfiting provocation from director Catherine Breillat, whose excursions into female psychology and movie sexuality are anything but clinical. (See 36 Fillette and Romance for further proof.) Two adolescent sisters journey to the seaside on vacation with their parents; the younger sister is overweight and brooding, the older girl a beauty who attracts the attention of a smooth-talking boy. Much of the film is built around two painstaking seduction scenes, characteristically shot by Breillat with both comic and horrific overtones and long, uncomfortable takes. The final section then tips into an outright descent into hell--you can never let your guard down with Breillat. So complicated were the seduction scenes that Breillat subsequently made a feature about the shooting of them, Sex Is Comedy. Fat Girl was released under an alternate title, A ma soeur!, but Fat Girl, in English, is Breillat's original and preferred title.--Robert Horton
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Director: Catherine Breillat
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 2001.2.10 (Berlin International Film Festival), 2001.3.7 (France)
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Catherine Breillat
DVD Release Date: October 19, 2004
Runtime: 86 minutes
Studio: CB Films, Canal+, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Flach Film, Immagine e Cinema, Urania Pictures S.r.l., arte France Cinéma
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