Masculin-feminin: The New Girlfriend **1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 19, 2015)

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I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man–Michael (aka ‘Dorothy’), from Tootsie

 If you have a list of 10 reasons to transition, sex would be #10–Caitlin Jenner

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls

It’s a mixed-up muddled up shook up world

Except for Lola

La-la-la-Lola

-Ray Davies

***** This week’s review contains possible spoilers *****

Do you remember this tag line from When Harry Met Sally: “Can men and women be friends or does sex always get in the way?” In his latest film, The New Girlfriend, director Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool) aims to up that ante, asking “Can a straight, cross-dressing man and a straight woman be friends, or does sex always get in the way?”

The straight, cross-dressing man is David (Romain Duris), a young widower whose late wife Laura was BFF with Claire (Anais Demoustier). The depth of the women’s friendship is parlayed via opening montage (the French invented that word, you know). It’s all there, from childhood blood oath (“Together forever!”) to dreamy, vaguely erotic scenes of Claire lovingly brushing Laura’s hair (age 7 through womanhood), to Meeting Cute with their respective future husbands (on the same night, at the same discothèque!), happy weddings, the christening of David and Laura’s daughter, then…Laura’s tragic demise soon after, from some non-specified wasting disease. (*sigh*) C’est dommage.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the film, which focuses on an unexpected relationship that develops between the two survivors after David outs himself to Claire as they are both still struggling to come to terms with Laura’s death, never quite shakes off the soapy residue from that sudsy preface. This film should have worked; it has an intriguing premise, Ozon (who adapted his screenplay from Ruth Rendell’s novel) does his best Douglas Sirk impression in tone and execution, and the two leads are charismatic and eminently watchable throughout, but the melodrama is just too overcooked (especially in the overly-contrived denouement). Puzzlingly, the film is billed as a “Hitchcockian thriller”, which did a flyover on me. Well, maybe there’s a touch of Vertigo, in that one of the characters becomes an idealized surrogate for the departed to the other character (I’m being vague, to keep this as spoiler-free as possible). You know what they say-it’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world. Except for Lola…

 

…and one more thing

Hollywood saw it coming, pt. MCMXCIX

I’m sure you heard about Ahmed Mohamed and his homemade digital clock earlier this week. The incident was so absurd; it’s like something out of a stoner comedy. Oh, wait…

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