The problem with Fat Girl says it all on its poster: “A new provocation from the director of Romance,” which happens to be Catherine Breillat.Breillat bookends her film between two reality-based elements: a girl she once saw going back-and-forth between her two lovers (here mocked by the fat girl swimming back-and-forth between poles in the pool) and a brutal murder and rape at the end, which was inspired by a newspaper article she had read years ago. Sex and sexuality are just as much the center of Fat Girl, though often the act or visuals are replaced by the distraction and curiosity for the fat girl, Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux), a corpulent 12-year-old girl, is a ball-and-chain to her 15-year-old sexpot sister Elena (Roxanne Mesquida) during their family vacation. (When they fight and Anaïs becomes upset, Elena feeds her to assuage the arguments: “It can’t be too bad,” her mother says, “she’s still got her appetite.”) Elena is interested in exploring and experimenting with her adjuring sexuality, and quickly hooks an Italian college student. He pressures her into sex, witnessed by Anaïs of course, who disagrees with her sister’s idea that when she loses her virginity, it should be with someone she loves. Anaïs is convinced that it would be better to ‘lose’ or ‘give’ it to someone she could care less about once it was over with, since it wouldn’t stop there. Breillat again returns to issues of sex, morally and emotionally — is it a demonstration of love, a pleasure? — and she has no problem capturing our interest, but she goes about it the wrong way. She thinks that by provoking, whether it be by the fact that a 12-year-old already has notions and theories of what sex should and will be like, or the image of nubile young female bodies, or erect penises, it’s the only way to prove the point or tell the tale she has created. Breillat ends up coming off as something of a feminine version of Larry Clark: an exploiter at heart. Breillat doesn’t realize how to use such elements and acts in modicum; sometimes she doesn’t draw a clear enough line, and her work gets objectified as pornographic. To some degree it is a fair assumption, but the motivations are usually lucid enough, too; she labels Fat Girl as a cruel fairy tale, and the ending is most certainly startling and disturbing. There is less a lesson to be learned than there is a provocateur trying to raise brows.
With Arsinée Khanjian (Atom Egoyan’s wife), Libero de Rienzo and Romain Goupil.[Worth-seeing.]