Saturday, March 14, 2015

“Party Girl”– Movie Review



This weekend, as The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s “Rendez-vous With French Cinema” series winds down, I attended the U.S. Premiere of the drama “Party Girl”.


When a retirement-aged woman is the recipient of an unlikely marriage proposal, will she finally be able to settle down or will her wild lifestyle prove too irresistible to surrender?


Despite being around 60 years of age, Angélique (Angélique Litzenburger) continues employment as a hostess at a strip club located in a small town near the northeastern region of France.  Working nightly for tips from customers as she drinks and flirts with them, the money is far less during the infrequent times it does happen to find its way to her; Angélique’s meager income forces her to live in a tiny room above the nightclub.  Increasingly desperate, she visits Michel (Joseph Bour), who was once a regular at the club, to find out why he’s no longer patronizing the place.  Michel informs her that he’s so in love with her that he no longer wishes to see her only in that context and shocks Angélique by proposing marriage. 

Although taken aback by the proposal, Angélique is also intrigued as well.  Michel, a retired coalminer, is living well and can afford to care for her; this gives Angélique a second chance without having to worry about her future.  On the other hand, she still finds her crazy world at the strip club fun; she’s bonded with the young girls who dance there and between getting drunk every night and teasing the men, it would be difficult to turn her back on it forever.  She consults with her three grown children who agree to attend the wedding if there is one – but what about Cynthia?  Now 16 years old, Cynthia is the fourth and last of Angélique’s children, having been raised in a foster home. 

Seeing marriage as the best option available to her at this stage of her life, Angélique decides to accept Michel’s offer.  With the wedding now an inevitability, she pays a visit to Cynthia’s foster mother, where she also meets with her daughter to explain the situation.  Following a sorrowful admission to her shortcomings as a mother, Angélique begs Cynthia to come to her wedding.  By now, however, Angélique is beginning to get cold feet; her once-promising relationship with Michel is starting to sour and she’s missing the atmosphere at the club.  Will Angélique go through with the wedding or will she back out before it’s too late?


As heartbreakingly tragic as the story of “Party Girl” may be, its plot is also full of holes – which is too bad, because at its core is an interesting idea.  For one thing, why would a strip club owner have a 60 year-old woman working there in the first place, much less as a hostess?  Looking at things from a purely business standpoint, will that really draw male customers – regardless of their age – to come in and spend their money?  Also, why does the prospect of marriage suddenly inspire Angélique to see her children, including and especially the one she had to give up?  And since she obviously wasn’t exactly Mother Of The Year, why do her adult children seem to have such a friendly relationship with her? 

It’s a shame that such an otherwise fascinating premise was squandered by obvious flaws in logic. (Oh, and by the way, how did Angélique know where one of the club’s regular customers lives?)  The mutable adherence to reality in this script is simultaneously confounding and infuriating.  In some respects, this is a story about Angélique seeking redemption, with the central question being whether or not it will occur.  Ultimately, Angélique proves herself to be an unsympathetic character not only because of all the poor choices she’s made (and continues to make), but also because of her utter indifference to how these choices negatively impact those closest to her.

Following the screening was a question and answer session with director Claire Burger, speaking through an interpreter.  Burger gave considerable insight into the choice of location; this particular town shares a border with Germany and was either controlled by the French or the Germans, depending upon what point World War II was in at any given moment.  Most of the town is populated by miners who work at nearby coalmines; over the years, the town has seen more than its fair share of economic woes.  These strip clubs – called “cabarets” by the inhabitants – are located on the German side of the border and frequented by both present and former coalminers.    

Party Girl (2014) on IMDb

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