During a year curiously lacking in the “standout performance” department, here enters Isabelle Huppert. This is a fierce, complex portrayal of a character who rarely falls in line with our preconceived notions, and Huppert nails every single aspect of that complexity. As Michele Leblanc, she continually walks a tightrope of desire, control, and sexuality, and she and Verhoeven find moments of wild humor and biting satire in the midst of extremely dark scenarios. It’s a fun one to watch, and the fact that I label it “fun” when it involves the topics it does should tell you all you need to know about where Verhoeven’s mind is at.
Not everything works, as some of the subplots that are tacked on never really get you to care. However, when the film focuses on Michele’s engrossing central story and Huppert’s captivating central performance, everything clicks into place. This might be praised for being a subversive, progressive film about sexuality and desire, or it might be criticized for trivializing serious issues. Either way, though, one thing this film is not is your typical rape revenge fantasy, and it deserves some credit for that.