The most important, life-affirming movie of the season is Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. Isabelle Huppert stars in the eponymous role, playing a book publisher turned video game designer who, in the first scene of the movie, is sexually assaulted, in the middle of the day, in her posh Parisian apartment, while her gray cat watches. Elle takes a bath, buys an axe, and doesn’t report the crime to the police. At least half of the movie is a whodunit, as Elle starts receiving creepy texts from the rapist. The thesis of the movie is that the rape does not victimize Elle; instead, the movie makes Elle a morally complicated woman who does not suffer fools gladly, whether dealing with her son, who’s power-played by his erratic girlfriend, or her elderly mother, who is engaged to a gigolo, or her ex-husband, whose fender she smashes on a whim. Besides being raped, Elle is also the daughter of a serial killer, something for which she’s punished, although it’s unclear whether her pathologies originate from her childhood experience. What is clear is that this movie is entertaining, funny, and interesting. And, if the synopsis raises concerns, please note that one us is a rape survivor, and she was neither triggered nor offended by Verhoeven’s aesthetic choices. And neither should you. See this movie today.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White