Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creepy Sex is Creepy

Film: A Ma Soeur! (Fat Girl)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on laptop.

I’ve said it before on this blog that in general, coming of age stories come in two varieties: male and female. For boys, coming of age is all about coming to terms with mortality, which means that something has to die, be it a friend, a relative, or (usually) a beloved animal. For girls, coming of age in movies is about coming to terms with their sexuality, which means sex, sometimes non-consensually. Since A Ma Soeur! has the English name of Fat Girl, guess what this film is about? Wrong! In a magical twist, in this film we’re going to get both sex and death.

Yeah, it’s about sibling rivalry and a couple of young girls having sex. And it’s pretty damn creepy and finishes with a completely WTF ending. This was a film I had trouble tracking down, and right now, I’m wondering why I bothered.

We have two sisters, Anais Pingot (Anais Reboux) and Elena Pingot (Roxane Mesquida) who start the film talking about sex. Elena, who is about 15, is still a virgin, but is also something of a slut. She likes boys a lot, and has done pretty much everything but actual sex, and her intention is to find someone special and lose her virginity to him. Anais, 12 and chubby, is of the opinion that it would be better to lose her virginity to a nobody so that she doesn’t have to deal with that person in her life. The two are on vacation with their parents (Arsinee Khanjian and Romain Goupil) at a French resort. Anais, incidentally, spends a great deal of her time singing an extremely morbid song, and we spend a lot of time listening to her do exactly that.

It’s here that they meet Fernando (Libero de Rienzo), an Italian college student, who invites the girls to sit with him. It’s not more than a couple of minutes before Fernando is tongue deep in Elena’s mouth. She introduces him to her parents, and that night he sneaks into her room at the resort. Fernando claims to love the girl, but naturally he’s just looking for sex. She refuses. And so we get surprise buttsex. The next morning, Fernando sneaks out, actually refuses oral sex in part because he realizes it’s statutory rape and runs off. Dad flies home because he’s not a fan of vacations, and we’re left with the three women.

The relationship between the two girls is pretty realistic. The pretty Elena loves her sister, evidenced by the morning after where she feeds her, and hates her, as evidenced by the way in which she treats Anais through much of the rest of the film. Anais is petulant, wearing a constant pre-teen frown. She wants nothing more than to be exactly like Elena (choosing the same dress in the store) except for when she wants to be nothing like her sister. There’s a very sweet scene in the middle of the film when the two talk to each other, and there’s a real sense of actual sisterhood between the girls. This scene is the one thing I took out of this film that I didn’t find at least mildly repugnant. Of course, this scene is followed by statutory rape, so the pleasure of that scene doesn’t last too long.

Anyway, Fernando continues macking on Elena, giving her an “engagement” ring that he actually stole from his mother. That night, Elena and Fernando have non-buttsex sex while Anais lays in her bed on the other side of the room. So, Anais has been forced to watch her sister with Fernando two nights in a row and has witnessed her sister’s loss of virginity. And guess what? The really creepy stuff still hasn’t happened, because there’s about half an hour of film left. But let’s linger on this moment for a bit, because the film certainly does. We watch Anais while her sister is having sex in the background, and we never cut away until Fernando finishes.

I’m going to go full spoiler on this, and I’m not putting it under a spoiler tag. What follows is the rest of the film, so if you don’t want to know the ending, stop reading here. If I felt that there was value in seeing this film, I’d use a spoiler tag, but this is one of those situations in which I feel like I doing a service by telling the ending completely. That way, other people don’t have to watch. You’re welcome.

Anyway, Elena, Anais, and their mother have to drive back to the outskirts of Paris. When the mother gets tired, she pulls the car off into a rest area and they sleep. And then, because statutory rape buttsex wasn’t enough to make this movie really creepy, the movie suddenly turns into a slasher film. A guy bashes in the windshield of the car with an axe, kills Elena and the mother and then (you know what’s coming) rapes Anais, who claims later that it wasn’t rape. After all, her intent was to lose her virginity to someone who didn’t matter.

What the fuck? Regular readers of this site know that I don’t drop the f-bomb here that often, but in this case it’s warranted.

This is a film that makes me want to take a shower to wash off the ick. It’s ugly, it’s brutal, and it’s repugnant, and I can stand all of that. Where I have a problem is that it also seems completely pointless, like the entire film was to give us a situation where Anais could essentially get what she wanted without really anything good happening to her. I felt very much the same when I watched Fish Tank earlier this year, and I wasn’t a fan of that film. But this one…I watched about half of it with my nose wrinkled in disgust. This film was banned in Ontario in 2001. I don’t agree with censorship in most cases, and I don’t agree with it here. I do, however, understand the motivation in this case even if I disagree with the decision.

Ugly premise, ugly film, and now I’m in an ugly mood. It’s also an unfortunate translation of the name of the film—the actual translation from the French is My Sister Has, which is a much better title. It focuses on both of the girls instead of just the one. But in this case, that’s akin to coming up with the perfect thing to call a new human atrocity.

On a positive note, this was my first experience with Hulu Plus, and I have to say that the quality is top-notch. Those looking for a new streaming service due to NetFlix ire could do a lot worse than this. The search function isn’t that great, but as a source for streaming video, the quality is excellent.

Why to watch A Ma Soeur: You’re a pervert.
Why not to watch: You are a decent human being.


  1. Great review. I'll be avoiding this film.

    Just a note: I'm pretty sure the title's translation would be "To My Sister," unless there's evidence that "A ma soeur" is a fragment that uses emphatic word order (e.g., "Thrice has my sister drowned!"). French capital letters generally lose their accents; in the lower case, the word "to" is "à," where the accent is visible. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule, of course.

    Ah-- just checked the movie poster on Wikipedia. It shows the title in all-caps, with an accent on that first "A." So, yeah: "To My Sister."

  2. Hmm. Well, so much for translations from Babelfish.

    And, dammit, "My Sister Has" is a fantastic name for this film! It might be a mistranslation on my part, but it's a hell of a meaningful one for where this film ends up.

    But thanks for the correction.

  3. Yak. I'll never watch that movie, that's for sure. And I wasn't a huge fan of Fish Tank either. I always thought I was the only one. That movie was really celebrated all over the place, except for on my blog...

  4. The only saving grace this movie has is when Arsinee Khanjian chucks a big water bottle on the street and the car invasion scene. I'm not much into the movie but I totally respect how Brelliat does whatever she wants.

    Also, I understand the hate for this movie but hate for Fish Tank? Nuh-uh.

  5. Yeah, hate for Fish Tank. I'm with Jessica on that one. I knew exactly where that film was going an hour before it got there. Ho-hum, another girl who grows up through inappropriate sex.

    Based on Brelliat's other films...she's a bit pervy, methinks.

  6. Oh Steve, here I was expecting to find unbiassed praise for Breillat and her unique cinematic style! Instead you gored the Fat Girl. I'm disappointed only in that you didn't also behead and immolate this tripe as well.
    Thanks again for reading my mind. Heehee: "Surprise butt sex"

    on the Fish tank issue, I saw Fish Tank, found it boring and 2 months later saw it was on the list... that pissed me off.

    1. This is the sort of film I figure is put on the list simply for shock value. Oh, it's a film that addresses painful issues and confronts them head-on, so it must be a great film. What a load. Too many good films are left off The List so that crap like this can be put on it.

  7. I really don't see how tis is a "coming of age" story.

    It's mighty unpleasant though.

    I was so stressed by the last 15 or 20 minutes because I thought they were going to be in a car crash. IF ONLY!

    It just finished minutes ago. My stomach is still churning. I don't read your reviews until after I see the movie but I wish I had been a little more prepared for THAT!

    For a better Roxanne Mesquida film, see Rubber!

    1. Yeah, I hated this a lot. This is one of the films I bring up when asked about bad films on the 1001 Movies list.