Synopsis: A young woman makes a surprising discovery about the husband of her late best friend.
Release Date: September 25, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
The theme of cross dressing has seemingly always been in Hollywood movies, from Some Like it Hot in the fifties to the more recent Dallas Buyers Club. Images of men dressing as women have been used to elicit many different responses from audiences throughout that time, from the comedy of Mrs. Doubtfire to the horror of Psycho. Sometimes, however, the movies are more challenging. Thus is the case with the French film The New Girlfriend.
The New Girlfriend is about a young woman named Claire (Anaïs Demoustier from Bird People) who makes a promise to her dying childhood friend, Laura (Girls Can’t Swim‘s Isild Le Besco), that she will look after her husband, David (Heartbreaker‘s Romain Duris), and their infant daughter after Laura’s death. One day, Claire drops in on David unannounced, and finds him feeding the baby while wearing Laura’s clothes. He explains that, at first, he would do it because the smell of Laura on the clothes would calm the baby down, but eventually, David found that it would calm him as well. With his secret out of the bag, David finds a comfortable confidant in Claire, and even begins to leave the house in drag with her by his side. When he calls Claire, she tells her husband, Gilles (Raphaël Personnaz from Anna Karenina), that it is a friend of hers from school named Virginia, so David starts referring to his cross-dressing self as that. Claire and Virginia spend more time together, leaving Claire to wonder; does she have feelings for David, or does she just miss Laura that much?
The New Girlfriend was written and directed by François Ozon (In the House) from a novel by Ruth Rendell (Live Flesh). The film is a fascinating character study, not only of David/Virginia, but of Claire as well. Laura’s death has left both of them deeply wounded, and each deals with it in his or her own way. David takes to almost impersonating Laura, dressing up in a costume every day, while Claire finds herself drawn to David (as Virginia), perhaps seeing bits and pieces of Laura in the façade. When Laura was alive, she and Claire enjoyed an intense bond, almost teetering on the verge of lesbianism, so her attraction to the man that Laura loved dressed in her best friends clothes is understandable, albeit a little creepy.
There are a lot of other creepy things that happen in The New Girlfriend, too. At one point, to justify his cross-dressing, David tells Claire that “every child needs a mother,” to which she responds “and a father,” prompting him to shoot back “I’m doing both.” The only answer to that that Claire can come up with is to call him a pervert. Later on, when David calls Claire, he does so from Laura’s phone so her number shows up on Claire’s caller ID, putting an unnecessary strain on Claire’s already fragile mind. During a conversation where David and Claire are making dinner plans, he asks her if she would rather have dinner with David or Virginia, showing Claire (and the audience) that he’s taking his alter-ego a little too seriously. The New Girlfriend is in no way a horror film, but there are eerie little things like this that happen throughout the film that make the audience think that it could be heading in that direction.
The New Girlfriend is a quirky little indie movie that, while not for everyone, will definitely strike a chord with the audience. It may amuse, it may repulse, it may arouse, but it will not bore. Like it or not, The New Girlfriend commands the attention of the viewer.
The New Girlfriend was masterfully edited by Laure Gardette (Polisse, Caramel). The film begins with a well-put together sequence that, at first, seems to be taking place at a wedding, but is, in fact, revealed to be at Laura’s funeral. Gardette then culls together a slick montage that tells the story of Laura and Claire’s friendship, from childhood to adolescence, to marriage and childbirth, and finally, to death, all in the span of just a few minutes. It’s important to establish the deep affection and love that the women have for each other, but that’s not the main story in the film. Gardette perfectly illustrates the women’s relationship without spilling over into the meat of the narrative, and she does it neatly and concisely. Gardette is also able to seamlessly blend the past and present in flashback sequences that serve to keep Laura’s memory and spirit alive within the other character’s minds. Laure Gardette’s editing is an essential part of the storytelling in The New Girlfriend.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): François Ozon
- Producer(s): Eric AltmayerNicolas Altmayer
- Screenwriter(s): François Ozon
- Story: Ruth Rendell
- Cast: Romain Duris (David/Virginia)Anaïs Demoustier (Claire)Raphaël Personnaz (Gilles) Isild Le Besco (Laura)
- Editor(s): Laure Gardette
- Cinematographer: Pascal Marti
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s): Antoinette Boulat
- Music Score: Philippe Rombi
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: France