Following the deft In The House, Jeune Et Jolie is another compelling study in youthful rebellion from director François Ozon.
Like a modern-day spin on the classic Belle De Jour (1967), only this time with a teenage schoolgirl replacing Catherine Deneuve’s bored housewife, the film stars relative newcomer Marine Vacth as isabelle, a quietly enigmatic girl who lives with her parents and younger brother Victor in a typically bourgeois Parisian household.
After a brief summertime intro, where Isabelle casually discards her virginity with a German teen during a family holiday, Ozon returns us to Paris and, without a hint of emotion, directs Isabelle towards a life in prostitution.
Donning high heels, red lipstick and a confidence that belies her 16 years, Isabelle is swiftly gathering clients via a website she sets up, and servicing them in a five-star hotel which boasts the same anonymous air as she does.
There’s no violent pimp behind her, nor is there a hard-luck story. In fact, Ozon is deliberately economical here, and there’s little by way of explanation regarding Isabelle’s motives.
Sexual awakening? Adolescent anger? We’re never sure, and thankfully Ozon never tries to offer any pat lessons in psychology – even as Isabelle’s traumatised mother Sylvie (Géraldine Pailhas) drags her daughter to a shrink session.
With the film divided into four seasonal chapters, each accompanied by a different tune from Françoise Hardy, a theme of transition emerges. The spine of the story is Isabelle’s gradual shift towards womanhood, albeit in an unconventional (and potentially destructive) way.
Embodying this, Vacth is quite superb as Isabelle – adeptly moving from early scenes of cool detachment to the emotional fall-out of the final act, when one particular unforeseen encounter puts things into harsh perspective. In a film about the thorny process of maturity, she’s a talent who’s arrived fully formed.
Ozon keeps the melodrama at bay to deliver a typically subversive study of growing pains. And in Vacth he’s found a real star-in-waiting.