Plot: What’s it about?
Anais (Anais Reboux) is twelve years old and has a weight problem, which is made all the worse by her sister’s physical perfection. Her sister Elena (Roxane Mesquida) is fifteen and has a slim, attractive figure. Elena has started to mature and as such, she has intense sexual desires and that leads to fantasies. She dreams of losing her virginity to a man she loves, but Anais has her own ideas on the subject. Anais believes that sex with someone you don’t love is the best way to lose one’s virginity, as that strips away the disillusionment. This isn’t their lone disagreement however, as the two bicker and fight quite often. Not to a violent level, but about what you’d expect from two girls so close in age. The family soon ventures out on a vacation and Elena sees this as a prime chance to meet some guys, until her parents step in. She has to take Anais with her whenever she leaves the house, which frustrates her to no end. How can she meet people and let herself explore when her own sister is always by her side? The problem gets more evident when she does meet someone, an older man named Fernando (Libero De Rienzo). Elena wants to experiment with her new friend, but with Anais always there, she hesitates. What will happen to these two sisters on this vacation and will either learn the emotional value of sex?
With such films as Romance, A Real Young Girl, and Perfect Love on her resume, Catherine Breillat is no stranger to controversial motion pictures. So no surprises here, as Fat Girl is another in her line of controversial movies, though not to the same extent as projects like Romance. In this case, Breillat was again acclaimed by critics for her work, but I think their praise stops too soon. I’ve seen a lot of Breillat’s films and all of her better known ones, most of which shock and have moments of inspiration. In Fat Girl, those moments are more common and lasting, as if Breillat has found her balance between sensation and substance. Her usual tools are here, including a thick sexual cloud over the entire movie, but she isn’t as graphic in how the events fall into place. Even so, the tone is dark and with younger cast members, the film is sure to upset or offend some folks. Breillat controls the film with immense skill, even reeling in the pace at times to keep the right tone, which not many directors can keep a handle on. Her characters are well developed and allowed to evolve, thanks in part to excellent performances from the two leads. I do think Breillat drops the ball in a few places, but come on, no movie is perfect. I recommend Fat Girl to open minded audiences and Criterion’s disc is worthwhile, so this release is well recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Fat Girl is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. In one of the best transfer I’ve seen of late, the image here is fantastic and perhaps some of Criterion’s finest work to date. The film’s intended visual scheme is retained and that has some impact on the elements, but it all looks just as it should, without a doubt. The colors look bold and rich, but never err, while flesh tones are natural all at times as well. Even the contrast here is razor sharp and flawless, which is stunning in this case, given the film’s layered shadow depth at times. This is one of the best transfers to come along in a while and as such, I am giving it close to the full score and trust me, it deserves the praise and fans will be thrilled.
Audio: How does it sound?
Ah yes, this is as sweet as you can want. Criterion has issued dual 5.1 surround options here, in both Dolby Digital and DTS. This film seems like an odd choice for such lavish audio attention, but I am glad to see the extra care invested. Criterion doesn’t do DTS that often, but I do hope to see more DTS soundtracks on future releases, especially lower profile projects like this one. Ok, so enough pandering, how does the flick sound? As I said, this movie won’t be remembered for its sound design, but the movie sounds as good as possible. The film has a natural, smaller scope sound that works well, but the surrounds don’t get much action. At times you’ll notice the rear channels, but not that often in this case. Even so, the sound has a rich, natural presence that more than covers all of the bases here. I couldn’t be more pleased, as even films with low key soundtracks deserve to be given the deluxe treatment. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, which have been redone and improved for this release.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some behind the scenes footage, as well as two interviews with Breillat, which prove to be quite insightful. You can also view both the U.S. and French theatrical trailers, which add a touch more value to the release.