Young & Beautiful

Movie Review #938


Released in New York City, New York on April 25, 2014. Internet release on April 25, 2014. Drama. This film is not rated. Runs 95 minutes. A French production. Written and directed by François Ozon. Cast: Marine Vacth, Géraldine Pailhas, Frédéric Pierrot, Fantin Ravat, Johan Leysen, Charlotte Rampling, and Lucas Prisor.


By Alexander Diminiano

“Young & Beautiful” is an ambitious coming-of-age film. It’s a bit too ambitious, though, and it doesn’t go about approaching these ambitions in all the right ways.

Though it’s not a terrible movie. Let me take you y’all back to the 66th Cannes Film Festival, held May 15-26 in 2013. France’s “Young & Beautiful” premiered In Competition on the festival’s third day. However, “Blue Is the Warmest Color” premiered seven days later at the festival; this entry being a solid but superficial version of that longer, more poignant coming-of-age film.

Marine Vacth gives the performance that really anchors “Young & Beautiful”. She plays a seventeen-year-old girl effectively; the emotional immaturity she offers in her role nearly compensates for the character’s underdevelopment in the script. Writer-director François Ozon divides “Young & Beautiful” into four distinct parts, each titled after one of the four seasons. But this isn’t just one story. It’s four different stories weakly attempting to form a single, unified story. The results are glaringly incoherent.

In “Summer”, Isabelle (Vacth) meets a German boy on the beach and falls in love with him. But after they have sex, she grows less fond of him; either that or something else that the script never exactly clarifies in even subtleties. Then we switch to “Autumn”, where Isabelle decides to become a prostitute. She lies about her age and hides herself behind an excess of makeup. We keep wondering why the bloody hell she would make such a stupid, destructive decision, particularly when she finds leading a double life uncomfortable, when she does not appear to enjoy sex at all, and when all her clients are married and senior citizens. Going back on what I’ve previously said, it’s the way Vacth handles her superb role, not the way Ozon handles his underwhelming script, that accounts for any sympathy we have toward this character.

In “Winter”, Isabelle’s family discovers that she has been leading a double life as a prostitute and sends her to therapy. She spends much of this portion of the film either attending therapy or complaining because she would rather not attend. Then we jump to “Spring”, where Isabelle has apparently decided to abandon prostitution altogether, and on top of that, has committed to a faithful relationship with a different boyfriend. The film ends shortly after it’s introduced us to their strikingly unconvincing relationship.

“Young & Beautiful” aims for beauty and creativity (though if you’ve seen the “four seasons” setup in “Requiem for a Dream”, that tactic doesn’t exactly feel new). It should have also aimed for coherence. I saw “Young & Beautiful” for free, but if I had paid to watch it, it would have felt like a four-for-one special.