François Ozon’s Jeune et Jolie is for the most part an engaging if subversive coming-of-age story.
Sixteen-year-old Isabelle spends the summer with her family by the beach. The events of the summer break have an impact on the rest of Isabelle’s year, although perhaps not in the way imagined…
Jeune et Jolie is unique spin on the coming-of-age narrative. The film does concentrate on Isabelle’s journey of self-discovery. Nevertheless, the film focuses on the sexual side of her maturity rather than anything else.
The film posits an interesting question; why would a young, financially-comfortable teenage girl want to engage in prostitution. The answers are not easy to find. Ozon explores this dynamic without offering any real reasoning or explanation.
The result of this lack of rationale behind Isabelle’s choices is a feeling of exploitation. There are some rather graphic scenes in which Ozon does not shy away from depicting Isabelle in unsavoury situations. Jeune et Jolie invites viewers to take a voyeuristic angle; one that most will not feel entirely comfortable with.
The narrative progresses at a suitable pace in the film. The seasons mark an evolution in Isabelle’s growth, from exploration to experience. Jeune et Jolie depicts its protagonist as worldly yet still retaining a sense of youth. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is Isabelle’s relationship with her brother. It is this element that offers the best insight into her mindset.
François Ozon depicts many of Isabelle’s encounters with a level of sordidness. The voyeurism relates to the female protagonist rather than her partners, which is what makes the film seem exploitative. Marine Vacth is well cast as Isabelle. Her ambiguous countenance is perfect for the role. Géraldine Pailhas is also good as her mother.
Jeune et Jolie is contemporary in its approach to the age-old journey to adulthood. Interesting but not always comfortable viewing.