Marvin (2017)

ANNE FONTAINE

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.

Original Title: Marvin ou la belle éducation

Alternate Title: Reinventing Marvin

, 2017, , , , , , , , , Screenplay by , Anne Fontaine.   Cinematography by Produced by , , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Marvin is the sweet and sensitive sibling in a family of tough provincials, perpetually criticized for his softness while being tortured by bullies at school.  He remembers these experiences from the perspective of his present day life as a young adult in drama school (played by ), working on creating a one-man show in which he describes his coming of age.  As a child, he witnesses his parents’ volatile relationship, when grown up he has an affair with an older, wealthy gentleman () who puts him in touch with actress Isabelle Huppert (having a great time playing herself) who becomes something of a mentor for him. The building blocks of something charismatic and captivating are all here, from the rough Dardennes-like presentation of the sticks as populated by filthy, vibrant people, to the depiction of a Parisian arts community attending stylish parties but struggling with the tensions of conflicting desires and ambitions.  Between Oldfield’s rather undetermined performance and director Anne Fontaine’s clear discomfort with the material, however, you have a film that leaves a bad taste when it’s over; there are essential elements to this character that open us up to the promise of astute observation, like Marvin’s sexual fantasies about the physical contact with the boys who are assaulting him at school, but Fontaine directs them like she can’t wait to get away from them.  The adult character’s need to tell his story doesn’t make much sense, Marvin always seems anxious to be left alone and, from the little we see of his final piece, it’s impossible to believe that his play would cause as much of a stir as it does.  Huppert’s cameo is a breath of fresh air, however, and the script at least has the decency to go for some kind of comforting conclusion after indulging (without processing) so much pain.

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