rating

Elle

In the opening scene, witnessed by her cat, Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is brutally raped in her apartment and then tells her friends about it as if she were chatting about a sale on handbags. Does she report the assault to the police? Does the cat? Not anymore than she would report her shopping list. Michele is a classy, if hardened, successful middle-aged businesswoman who, in some ways, figuratively rapes her employees when they fail to reach stated targets.

Huppert’s performance will make jaws drop. There is something about this actress that defies definition. She doesn’t inhabit her roles — she becomes her characters. And in a part such as this, that is rather creepy. Director Paul Verhoeven has fashioned a tense thriller with such a bizarre twist that we’re at once sickened and seduced. Ordinary thrillers hinge on the capture of a villain or the solution of a puzzle or the resolution of a dilemma. Here we’re subjected to all three to go home feeling satisfied.

– Mal Karman

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