Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Original Title: Marvin ou la belle éducation
Alternate Title: Reinventing Marvin
France, 2017. P.A.S. Productions, Cine, F Comme Film, Mars Films, France 2 Cinema, Drize Holding, Canal+, France Televisions, Cofinova 13, La Banque Postale Image 10. Screenplay by Pierre Trividic, Anne Fontaine. Cinematography by Yves Angelo. Produced by Philippe Carcassonne, Jean-Louis Livi, Pierre-Alexandre Schwab. Music by José Miguel Ortegon. Production Design by Emmanuel de Chauvigny. Costume Design by Elise Ancion. Film Editing by Annette Duterte.
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 Finnegan Oldfield), 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 (Charles Berling) 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.