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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.18.09] movie review drama

Year: 2008
Directors: Denis Côté
Writers: Denis Côté
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 4 out of 10

The first scene in All That She Wants is of a woman wandering into a police station and admitting to the murder of her husband. We then cut to the home of Coralie and her father, who live an absolutely miserable life on the poverty line in rural Québec. Adding insult to injury are two local hoods who hassle and bully Coralie, although her boyfriend has come from France to stay, and plans on taking her back with him. All that she wants is to escape it seems, but Pierrot is unwilling, or unable, to make good on his promise and his passive manner only leads the Bundeswehr t-shirt wearing local thugs to turn on him too. Coralie tries to make money to aid her cause by making dirty phone calls to strangers in the hope of prostituting herself for cash. When the boys hear about this they make her an offer of $6000 if she'll do something for them - something almost unthinkable.

Well, that's the basic story, so here's the review: It didn't really work. When we first meet the two gangsters, Spazz (the alpha male) is smashing an old car to bits with a bat in an attempt to intimidate his buddy Pic. However the result is that he merely looks like an impotent goon who's about as threatening as a biscuit. Coralie herself is not as sympathetic a character as the above blurb makes out either. She's quite petulant and immature, and I can see why Pierrot would think twice about taking her back to his homeland. Although the film is well shot and acted considering a low budget, it just didn't succeed as the existential drama of morals, dreams and redemption that it wanted to be. What small arc and catharsis there was, became more frustrating than satisfying. It was certainly slow moving and the dialogue was sparse and to the point. Really there's only really one scene that made me sit-up and that's when we finally move location to a small bar that Coralie visits with her father Jacob. Here she meets a mysterious young stranger and has a dance with him. It's the only mildly pleasant scene in a film that's mostly made up of deeply unpleasant ones. A film can be made like this and succeed triumphantly (the fantastic 'Tony', for instance, is pretty harsh and nasty, and works that to an advantage), but 'All That She Wants' is like spending a week with the most depressing people in Canada. Just think about that. The narrative, like the landscape, is gaunt and dreary. There are a couple of plot lines on the side. One involves two Russian girls that Spazz wants to pimp out, although considering we only ever see the main characters, I'm not certain that there's anyone around to pimp to. Maybe that's why he's so frustrated that he spends time bashing old cars? There's little to recommend really, no humour, no sympathy and no hope. The press/media booklet says this is a love letter to Diane Arbus, and, if I may quote Diane Keaton as Mary Wilke in Manhattan, "To me it looked like it was straight out of Diane Arbus, but it had none of the wit... The rest of the stuff downstairs was bullshit".

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