Before turning 17, Isabelle (Marine Vacth) makes a decision to lose her virginity to the German boy she’s had a crush on all summer. The experience is predictably disappointing and Isabelle goes on with her life until an older man offers to pay her for sex. Isabelle immediately dismisses the idea, but can’t stop thinking about it until she eventually calls the man and sells herself to him. Thus begins Isabelle’s adventures in prostitution.
The interesting thing about Young and Beautiful in comparison with other films about prostitution is that this film neither glorifies it nor tries to come up with some convoluted reason why the main character would want to seek out this life. Isabelle seems to enjoy sleeping with strangers for money the same way one might enjoy going to their job as a nurse or accountant. Like any other job, there are aspects to being a prostitute that genuinely excite her while others she tolerates for the money.
Things inevitably fall apart for Isabelle as her secrets are revealed and her double life merges into one. Vacth’s performance through all of this is amazing in its subtlety. Isabelle never raises her voice or gets knocked off balance emotionally. This provides an interesting contrast to the performances of those around her, who struggle to understand Isabelle’s deviancies (as they see them). There’s an interesting incestuous element to the film as well. Isabelle’s relationship with her brother Victor (Fantin Ravat) is very open and close. While he doesn’t know about her job as a prostitute, he does help her to lose her virginity in exchange for her telling him about it. They’re very comfortable around each other without a hint of sibling rivalry or cynicism. Another interesting scene is where Isabelle seems to be flirting with her step father (Frederick Pierrot). As a prostitute, Isabelle is forced to sleep exclusively with older men. This is understandably very confusing for her developing libido and it makes for an uncomfortable yet fitting scene between her and her step father.
Overall the film is erotic and full of great performances, and I’m a huge fan of how it never once tries to cram any sort of moral or message down its audience’s throat.
The only special feature is the film’s trailer. Available on DVD from MPI Media Group on August 26.