The Maneater

| January 4, 2016

At first, this one reminded me of a Shakespearean story.  Jez (Mylene Jampanoi) and her occasional lover Erika (Mathilde Bisson) make a wager that Jez can’t successfully seduce a local priest, David (Marc Ruchmann), who recently performed her father’s funeral service.  It’s a good setup with some interesting characters, and the struggle David faces between his faith and his lust is mostly very believable and compelling.  I was really with the film most of the way through, but when Erika becomes less and less a part of the movie, and Jez starts to seem to want David to save her from her sinful ways I became concerned that a Christian message was about to be shoved down my throat.  While the Christian undertones and the morality play elements do become more evident as the movie progresses, it never feels like you’re being preached to fortunately.

The performances in the film are all good, but not great.  The cast does a capable job of telling the story that writer/director Natalie Saracco intended, but it feels like maybe they forgot to film certain key scenes.  Jez going from performing oral sex on a man in a bathroom of her own free will to crying in front of David’s church begging for him to save her feels like a bit of a leap.  David’s unwavering devotion to God suddenly wavering because the movie doesn’t know how to organically create a shift like this in its characters is also problematic.  No character/performance stands out as particularly good or bad.  They’re all just middling, and when Erika and her gay friend Greg (Aurelien Jegou) all but disappear from the movie, the loss of the variety those characters brought to the story is sorely apparent.

As Jez develops legitimate feelings for David and her want to get him into bed is no longer about being a game, but a manifestation of her frustration about not being able to be with the man she loves, the movie is able to do some interesting things with its themes.  Unfortunately, the missing beats in each character’s development disallow the story to maintain believability.  The filmmakers seemed to be most aware of this problem in the film’s conclusion when Jez is sitting in a ring of candles burning herself with hot wax presumably as a way to pay for her sins.  Not having anywhere to go from there, the film simply and mercifully ends, unable to live up to its potential, much like its heroine.

Available on DVD from Film Movement on January 5.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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