Somewhat ironically, Michèle herself doesn’t really budge. Instead of calling the police and going through a meltdown, she takes a bath and waits until a fancy restaurant dinner with friends to share her news (just as Champagne is about to be popped, a moment of dark comedy at its best).
This moment might be more important for the film than we expect early on. Or maybe it’s just my walking into 'Elle' with the words “rape revenge film” glued to my brains, and a handful of preconceptions connected to them.
With those elements at play, 'Elle' surprises as both a mid-life crisis drama, with Michèle’s relationship with her mother almost reminiscent of Huppert’s 2016 lighter drama 'L’Avenir' (Things to Come in English)...and as a thriller, hitting the genre’s codes (masked attacker, medieval axe, illicit affairs, knight in shining armour), like an homage to the genre itself.
The supporting characters are also essential to this quasi mid-life crisis drama / thriller hybrid. For example, Michèle’s work environment is filled with employees who have something against her. Enough resentment for tasteless bullying, but not to reach full blown thriller level. Again, many of them look like the computer geeks and startupers we run into daily.
The same can be said of Michèle’s lover, of her neighbours, of her son... Each disarmingly normal, each with a chilling Shadow Self. This could happen next door. Unlike many thrillers, here there is no distance between us and them. This is also thanks to great casting and wonderful performances across the board (though Anne Consigny, Jonas Bloquet and Laurent Lafitte were particularly impressive. I only knew Lafitte from 'Les Petits Mouchoirs' and now hope to see more of his work).
Equally thrilling was Anne Dudley’s score; definitely a more haunting element of the film as well as a reflection of Michèle's complexity. Though the music is closer to the thriller genre, there is a lot more heart to it than in many, thus again, taunting us to embrace the characters as full human beings and route for them, no matter what their flaws are.
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