Elle Movie Review
Fascinating, alluring but also frustrating, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a movie that cinephiles will feast on—and others will walk away scratching their heads, perhaps even arguing with themselves whether they even liked the movie or not.
I’m in the latter category.
Meaning I still don’t quite know what to make of Elle.
Isabelle Huppert delivers a great performance as Michèle, a successful businesswoman who is violently raped by an intruder. Instead of reporting the incident to the police, or even showing much emotion at all, she goes about her day, even casually mentioning it while on a dinner date with friends. But things take a darker turn when she begins to receive messages from her attacker, making her suspect that the man responsible has targeted her for a reason.
Elle is an intriguing thriller, one that benefits and ultimately suffers from Verhoeven’s unwillingness to bow to convention. At every turn, at every moment you think Elle is going to go one way, Verhoeven takes it another. Michèle is unpredictable because her personality makes her impossible to read, her reaction to her rape maddening and yet oddly understandable.
Unfortunately, the very traits that make Elle so good for most of its running time end up hurting it in the end. Verhoeven isn’t content to wrap things up conventionally so he decided to not wrap things up at all; while he offers some closure from a literal perspective, the movie ends without ever peeling the onion that is Michèle—and ultimately, she is the mystery at the center of Elle. As interesting as that makes the movie, it also makes it unsatisfying.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.