One-time Palme d'Or winner Laurent Cantet returns with a creaky, contrived girl gang saga.
This is an inauspicious, ungainly return to filmmaking for French director Laurent Cantet, who nabbed the Palme d’Or in 2008 for his combustible schoolroom talkie, The Class. Foxfire sees Cantet bid a hasty adieu to the chaotic naturalism of that previous film to offer the dramatically awkward travails of a man-hating teen girl gang who take '50s Upstate New York as their stomping ground.
And appealing though its rockabilly stylings and sepia-hued locale may initially appear, the director seems more interested in bellowing the feminist themes nestled in Joyce Carol Oates’ source novel than allowing them to emanate of their own accord.
Live-wire tomboy Legs (Raven Adamson) coerces her demure best pal Maddy (Katie Coseni) into starting what Marge Simpson might call a violence gang. Misogynist pigs who objectify and abuse as a matter of course soon become their sworn enemy. When the law eventually becomes involved, the girls decide to consolidate their friendship and anarcho-feminist credentials by renting a dilapidated country house and attempting to forge a new, female-only civilisation.
Yet as bills begin to pile up and the cash supply eventually runs dry, the success of a harebrained kidnap plot is the only thing that stands in the way of their tumbledown utopia.
Despite its grand philosophical ambitions, Foxfire is let down by chugging, bloated storytelling and its ugly tranche of single-purpose characters. In order that we remain on the side of the gang, Cantet often paints their victims as vile stereotypes of sexual deviousness or economic entitlement. Even the girls rarely interact in a way that doesn’t inelegantly nudge their ulterior motives to the fore.
Keen to see how Cantet returns after The Class.
Thoughtful and cautious, though seldom truthfully dramatic.
A big miss. Cantet can and should do better than this.