Netflix A-Z: Young & Beautiful (Jeune & Jolie, 2013)

As we approach the end of the alphabet, it just gets harder and harder to choose movies because there are such limited and obscure choices. I actually had Young & Beautiful on my list, mostly because I mistaked the main girl for another actress which I soon learned was not the case and that this was actually a French movie. Well, that’s okay. I haven’t dived into a lot of foreign movies for this round of Netflix A-Z so its well-deserved.

Let’s check it out!

Young & Beautiful (2013)
(original title: Jeune & Jolie)

Young and Beautiful

Director and writer: Francois Ozon

Cast: Marine Vacth, Geraldine Pailhas, Frederic Pierrot, Fantin Ravat, Johan Leysen, Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Richard, Laurent Delbecque

After losing her virginity, Isabelle takes up a secret life as a call girl, meeting her clients for hotel-room trysts. Throughout, she remains curiously aloof, showing little interest in the encounters themselves or the money she makes.-IMDB

Young and Beautiful is an interesting movie, mostly because it starts almost as abruptly as it ends. We dive into the four seasons as a timeline in the life of our main character, seventeen year old Isabelle.  We start with the summer and the innocent girl that she is when she starts having sexual desires and ends up losing her virginity and the sudden interest in the German guy she did it with right after. As we enter into the next season, Autumn, she has taken on a double life as a student and call girl even if she doesn’t need the money and doesn’t seem to care too much about her sexual encounters either until something happens to make her stop.  Winter enters with a follow up of what happened and her secret life being uncovered and how she deals with it where we learn a little more about Isabelle and the possibilities of why she could be choosing this life. And we end with a quick look into Spring when she contemplates going back to the secret life and facing what happened and somehow maybe finding herself again.

Young and Beautiful

However, Young and Beautiful is absolutely confusing to watch.  It leaves a lot of loose ends and it made me wonder if that was the intention: to let the audience divulge what they feel in that scenario, except I don’t know the statistics on how many actually go through a call girl phase or experimental sex phase or something, because there has to be something relatable and somehow while Marine Vacth, the main lead, does a really great performance. Its one thing to watch someone’s life like in Boyhood but its very much another story when its just zooming into someone’s life for a year as they enter into adulthood and the drastic decisions they make and not really get any answers. There’s a thousand possibilities why Isabelle would choose her path and while one of the talks kind of give us a little hint into it, there is nothing certain, maybe its because even she’s not certain if its for a feeling or an excitement or finding who or what turns her on.  Because she is running away from just one sort of men, its the ones that really like her and start attaching to her family.  Maybe its the fear that she’ll get hurt if she commits or get judged by her actions that she’d rather just let it go before it becomes more? You see, there are questions upon questions that are unanswered.

Young and Beautiful

That might just be what is the downfall of this movie: lack of character development.  It teases us with our characters.  I can understand that the focus is on Isabelle and the choices she makes and she does a fine job at it even if a lot of her is still blurry.  I already talked about that in the previous paragraph but then we have the younger brother, Victor that seems like there was more they wanted to do with his character and he pops up randomly during the movie doing stuff that seems to elaborated and yet, it wasn’t. Same goes for the relationship her high school friend Alex that maybe should be more and yet it wasn’t.  Isabelle’s mom also had a bit more screen time but yet we only had hints of what happened and the divorce and her new marriage and all that stuff.  Its a lot of plot that needed to be filled in and yet wasn’t. It makes it even more empty when the movie just stops and the credits roll.

young and beautiful

 Despite in an extremely small role, Charlotte Rampling does make an appearance in Young and Beautiful.  And she has some amazing French.  I didn’t know that before so that was incredibly impressive and even in her rather vague and awkward role, I still think she did great.  But then, my point is that every single actor did a good performance.  It was really the very vague plot that didn’t connect well together that was the main issue.

Overall, Young and Beautiful is a French coming of age drama about one year in the life of a young girl who loses her virginity and turns into a call girl and whatever happens after to make her find something about herself.  Only issue is that it starts and ends abruptly and there isn’t enough character development of Isabelle or the characters around her to even have a chance of understanding what the message was. Maybe the message is that many things that happen in your life can influence your (at times, drastic) choices and no one can find relief except facing them yourself.  That’s the best I can do with what they gave me.  Its not that I didn’t connect with Isabelle but I just wished the plot was elaborated a little more because the concept of using four seasons and the progression of events was a clever idea.

Have you seen Young and Beautiful?

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