Chick flicks are a tricky one, aren’t they… A well-made one can be good fun, and sure I like to watch one every once in a while but when you boil them down even a teeny tiny bit, they basically end up conforming to the same pattern. The most famous example of this pattern in recent memory is of course Sex and the City (a series and not a film strictly speaking, but you get the picture…). Other chick flicks tend to take that pattern, adapt it to cultural differences if the script happens to be in the hands of particularly thoughtful filmmakers and follow it. In a nutshell, that is the story of Les Gazelles. Fans of the genre definitely will not be disappointed, but, I have to say, it does not reinvent the wheel.
Marie and Eric are a couple in their 30s. They may not be married but they have been together for almost 15 years and have just bought a house together, in short, they are preparing for their happily ever after in the conventional world. Except, Marie begins to realize, with rising claustrophobia, that she probably does not WANT a conventional happily ever after. In a fit of panic she packs her bags and leaves, fully prepared to start her life again. She is quick to discover that being single at 30 something is a lot more complicated than it looks, especially if it entails rebuilding large parts of her life and her confidence. Her family is appalled, their common friends are sure it will blow over, but slowly, Marie begins to make a new group of friends. A group of friends that will help her finally recapture what she felt she was missing all those years.
Needless to say, the new friends are a group of women and soon they are a gang of girls about town. Things and stuff ensue, and you really need to watch the film itself for more details. I have to say that by adapting it to a French perspective and lifestyle, director Mona Achache creates a much more raw, emotional and believable version of the typical chick flick story. The realities of being drunk, having one night stands and being single at a time in life where 90% of your friends are successfully “paired off” are handled with a cringe-worthy realism that very well may dredge up some memories of yours you would rather forget. And again, refreshingly, when the inevitable black moment – full crisis in the story arc comes along, Marie makes a mistake – and it is a BIG one, a proper, major mistake that will really push her off in another direction – this time, the direction she needs to go in to truly find herself.
The other thing I really liked about Les Gazelles – no prince charming. Oh true enough, there is no end to the men that come and go (a very French way of doing things that would NOT have flown for American audiences methinks) but in the end, there is no Mr. Right that saves the day. Marie saves herself, and makes her own decisions. Incidentally don’t go jumping to conclusions either, if I said there was no Mr. Right that saved the day, I don’t necessarily mean Marie ends up single at the end of it all.
In fact the only thing I would criticize and would call typical (at the risk of being a bit of a Grinch) is that there is a little too much in the way of happy endings all round. I mean on the one hand I felt it didn’t quite gel with the rawness of the story but on the other hand, I do see the cinematic point of making a realistic film and giving it a happy ending in the sense that it does induce catharsis.
I say give Les Gazelles a whirl. It’s one to watch with your mates and a few glasses of wine, guffaw at and forget. But not a bad effort, for all that.
Les Gazelles is screening as part of My French Film Festival, an online film festival being held at myfrenchfilmfestival.com between Jan 16 – Feb 16.