by Marta Bałaga
- There is no sign of pregnancy glow in this bloated satire by Sophie Letourneur
Sophie Letourneur – coming back to International Film Festival Rotterdam ten years after her debut – loudly stomps into the Big Screen Competition with Enormous. It’s a film that, sadly, feels more like an experiment gone wrong than a story worth investing in emotionally, as famous pianist Claire (Marina Foïs), not exhibiting any maternal instincts to speak of, suddenly finds herself pregnant after her husband/assistant/all-round organiser (Jonathan Cohen, in full sleazoid mode) decides he desires a descendant of his own, following an impromptu delivery witnessed on a plane, mid-flight. Given that she pretty much depends on him for survival, even as far as procuring the necessary contraception goes, all he has to do is to interfere with her pill, and bam! The lady is expecting. Not that she knows it, though.
It’s a concept so vile that it would take a lot of imagination and skill to make anything that comes next work at all, especially a narrative that – one assumes – has designs on being some kind of a satire, with the couple settling into the pregnancy with resignation on one hand and delirious joy on the other, and hubby Frederic quickly putting on sympathy weight as if trying to outdo his wife’s ever-growing, and then just inhumanly enormous, belly. And while making sure that the main characters are likeable doesn’t need to be on anyone’s priority list, these two are just teeth-grindingly annoying, Foïs and Cohen’s limited bag of tricks made all the more obvious by having them interact with a group of non-professional actors who are clearly rather bemused at what it is they have agreed to be a part of.
A certain gender switch might seem innovative at first, with the couple’s life revolving around Claire’s illustrious career and a marriage held together by a man – trained to tend to his wife’s every need, be it pre- or post-performance (with a matter-of-fact “Should I relax you?” serving as a prelude to oral sex). It’s she who forgets his birthday, without even batting an eyelid, and he who fights for her attention with flirty animal-print boxers, lecturing random “ladies who lunch” that “behind every great woman is a man”. But this, let’s face it, rather pleasing concept is undercut by the fact that Claire is so child-like and clueless that she needs to be led by the hand, making her an incredibly easy target for manipulation of any kind, even that concerning her own body. Who knows, it might be the recent flood of overly “feisty” heroines that has brought this on, but at this point, such a portrayal, however ambiguous, seems rather counterproductive. Not to mention painfully unfunny.
Apart from questionable taste – and that’s even without mentioning the jokes about elephants on their period that the audience is treated to as well – there is also the matter of the execution, at times striking us as hurried and amateurish. This is perhaps fitting, coming from a filmmaker known for favouring a “raw” approach to her subjects. But for now, just bring on the epidural.
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