To Catch a Prowler – Elle (2016)

Probably the darkest movie of the year.  So this is about a successful woman in the video game industry (Isabelle Huppert).  She gets raped and sexually assaulted, but instead of going to the police, she decides to play detective so as to figure out who her mystery assailant is on her own.  Now this had my attention for a number of different reasons.  Movies with a dark streak typically resonate with me, and reading the plot description, it doesn’t get much pitch blacker than this.  This won Golden Globes for Best Foreign Film and Best Actress in a Drama for Isabelle Huppert, who I have always known is an incredible actress from my journey through the library of Austrian director Michael Haneke.  Elle has everything going for it, but this just reaches a point of being so sordid that I was unable to connect with anyone.

1And yes, this is coming from somebody who identifies his favorite film as being Blue Velvet.

This is from director Paul Verhoeven, a man who directed one of my very favorite science fiction pieces in Total Recall.  I haven’t seen the following, so I cannot aptly make the comparison, but this is said to be more in key with Basic Instinct than anything, another film that he helmed.  To this movie’s credit, I will say that the reason why I had a disconnect with this had very little to do with the craft of this.  It is very well put together, and you’re never exactly sure how this story it going to play out.  There are bits and pieces of mystery scattered throughout, and it really keeps you going in this story where you are more or less looking into a woman’s psychosis.  It is made clear very early on that this is a lady who has skeletons in her closet, and it really forces you to wonder if there is something bigger going on here.  When it is finally revealed what happened in her past, everything starts to fall into place.  She has every right to be graveyard rat crazy, and it puts the entire story that you have witnessed thus far into perspective.

2It also doesn’t help that she is helping put together a video game that features literal rape scenes.

I appreciated this movie more than I liked it.  I was on board, but it ultimately reached a point where this lady is so far alienated, I stopped being able to relate to her as a human being.  Everybody treats each other like they are the scum of the Earth, and I stopped viewing these characters as real people.  Also, when it is revealed that her attacker is somebody that she knows, you start putting together a police lineup in your head.  Being that it can only be so many people, I’m a little disappointed that I guessed who it was without a whole lot of trouble pretty early on.  It’s a well made movie, sure, but I watched this distantly when I really wanted a foreign drama that I could be completely immersed in.

Elle (2016) ***

– Critic for Hire


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