THE NEW GIRLFRIEND (Une nouvelle amie)
Cohen Media Group
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade: B+
Director: François Ozon
Screenwriter:  François Ozon from the short story “The New Girlfriend” by Ruth Rendell
Cast:  Romain Duris, Anäis Demoustier, Raphaël Personnaz, Isild Le Besco, Aurore Clément
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 9/1/15
Opens:  September 18, 2015

Every baby needs a mother, but what to do when the mother is out of the picture—maybe imprisoned, drugged, or dead?  Dad could take over the job, of course, but some dads go to extremes.  In the case of “The New Girlfriend,” director François Ozon, already well known for such previous films as “Swimming Pool” (a British mystery writer visits her publisher’s home in the South of France where she interacts dramatically with the daughter) and “8 Women” (one murdered man and eight women seek the truth) focuses now on quirky family drama.  There are comic touches and a possible interpretation that Ozon, adapting from Ruth Rendell’s short story “The New Girlfriend,” is making fun of the histrionics at work rather than empathizing with the bizarre choices of at least the principal guy who inhabits the story.

Though Rendell emphasizes mystery, suspense, and sometimes horrible endings. Ozon’s movie lifts some of the suspense, tying the loose strings handily by the conclusion, even letting the audience guess the fate of the principals.  You can decide whether Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) leaves her handsome husband Gilles (Raphaël Personnaz) and hooks up with David (Romain Duris) or whether they remain simply the best of friends.

While the scenes are viewed through Claire’s point of view, David, aka Virginia, is the catalyst.  When his young wife Laura (Isild Le Besco) dies, David must bring up their baby Lucie alone, but David’s sexual identity change has only a little to do with fulfilling the little one’s need for a mom.  Truth to tell, he enjoys dressing as a woman, using his wife’s lipstick, dresses, and a full wig, an idiosyncratic choice that his wife knows about and accepts. When Claire catches David in drag she is horrified enough to call him a pervert.  It will be up to David, known as Virginia when trans-dressed, to coax his best friend to accept him and even cherish the confused identity.

That Claire and Laura were bosom buddies before the latter’s demise is shown clearly.  As children who played together regularly, they seal with bond with blood. Claire is the keynote speaker at Laura’s funeral and grieves for Laura perhaps even more than her widowed husband.

As the film progresses Claire becomes increasingly comfortable with “Virginia,” accepting him for what he is and even more attracted to him than before her discovery.  The Brian DePalma-type photography by Pascal Marti is punctuated particularly by the lenser’s overhead look at Laura’s corpse and what’s more, David is so photogenic as Virginia that he can convince someone who shows up late into the movie that he is a woman.   All this sexual confusion forms a backdrop to the growing attraction between David and Claire, giving the audience the impression that for Claire, a good-looking but conservative husband is no match for the imaginative David.

Ozon delivers a film with wit, charm, humor and drama, combining the four to form a unified tone to an imaginative story which, despite bizarre occurrences appears eminently credible.

Rated R.  109 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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