Cannes 2014: Party Girl
When you’re dealing with a weak protagonist, and a storyline as flat as a crepe (minus all the deliciousness,) there ain’t nothing coming to save your picture. Un Certain Regarde opener Party Girl, directed by no less than three people suffers just that kind of fate. The story hinges on Angelique (Angelique Litzenburger), a 60-something ex-stripper who still frequents one of her favorite clubs, drinks herself silly, chats about the good old days with her girlfriends (all still actively dancing), and acts like she still belongs on the pole. When one of her old regulars Michel (Joseph Bour) jumps from flirting to proposing, Angelique is faced with a real chance to finally act responsibly, settle down, and lead a sober life. The film supposes that if Angelique doesn’t want to make this change for herself, or for Michel, then at least for her four children, one of whom (the youngest, on top of it) she’s been neglecting for years.
The trouble is Angelique does need to change for herself; otherwise she’d never be happy, which would just recycle all her old habits again. A conclusion that’s realized within the first 15 minutes of the film, yet somehow ends up dragging this feature into the indifferent playing field it’s finally left in. The performances, especially from Litzenburger, who has no previous acting credit other than the same role in a shorter version of the same movie, and Bour are commendable and keep this from becoming a complete bore, as so many deflated scenes threaten to do. The intimacy of the story (the film is loosely based on one of the directors’ mothers, and lots of characters in the film play varying versions of themselves) is felt through the verite style, however, it ultimately fails because it’s forcing you to become intimate with a very disagreeable person. Angelique is charming in her own kitschy, susceptible kind of way, her eyes fixed in a deer-in-the-headlights gaze at the outside world, but when looked at objectively and stripped to her fundamentals, she’s a weak person with very few redeeming qualities. It’s like being stuck in a broken elevator with someone who wears too much make-up, smells like bad perfume and whiskey, and never shuts up about herself.
The scenes with the children are heartfelt, the music (especially the closing song which makes an atrociously vexing ending way too memorable than it ought to be) is used effectively, but Party Girl is the kind of party where every balloon is deflated and is not worth your time and effort. If you want to watch a film about a older woman battling with loneliness, watch Gloria instead.