To be quite honest, I am not sure how I discovered this movie exactly. I was just searching about and found this despite not knowing a single actor, or anyone involved. Still, the trailer made it seem very interesting so I decided to give it a chance.
The focus of the movie is one Simon (played by Brady Corbet) who just lost his girlfriend of 5 years, graduated college with a degree in neuroscience, and seemingly is having trouble letting go. However, with the help of a young prostitute Noura (played by Mati Diop) who fits Hollywood's vision of a Julia Robert's Pretty Woman styled sex worker with good lucks and a heart of gold, and a young college student named Marianne (played by Constance Rousseau) who is as sweet as Noura, but without the emotional baggage and sex worker profession, you foresee a turnaround for this heartbroken boy. But then you discover, slowly but surely, why after 5 years his girlfriend from High School decided to call it quits.
The way the story is setup, for the first 40 minutes we are shown a Simon which is a pitiful young man who makes you slightly uneasy, but with how heartbroken he is you want to give him a chance as a lead. But, once those first 40, or so, minutes are over and we meet Noura, under the name Victoria originally, things pick up. From there Simon finds a way, conveniently, to get nestled into Noura's naive little heart. Then comes in Marianne and with her introduction, we see Simon for what he really is: the type of character which reminds you why women must be careful of the men they interact with.
In a way though, there lies the appeal of the movie. For most of the movie you are presented a superficial version of Simon that would be no different from a guy you met in class or know at work. You see him sobbing and pitiful to the point you can almost see him as the victim, but as you get to know him you see this isn't fully true. Also, something I liked about this movie, was the character of Noura. Now, Noura isn't drawn much differently from most women who are sex workers since she has a troubled past and does sex work for independence, but what is likable about it is she doesn't feel like a victim. She frankly calls what she does work, just like you would call going to an office and being on a computer 7 or so hours a day work. It sort of put a rarely seen spin on sex workers for often they focus so much on their past issues that it seems you could blame an abusive ex or parent for everything as if perhaps they forced them to get into their profession. With Noura though, it seemed she chose it for she has worked doing other things, but perhaps it didn't pay enough to be independent.
But, as much as I like certain elements of the film, it does have one major pitfall and a few others sprinkled in. Focusing on the minor ones first, there is an issue, to me, in the movie when they decide to let a scene go on too long. For example, there is one shot of just a guy's face as Simon is in the process of blackmailing him, and we focus on him thinking in silence for 3-4 minutes. Also, there is a dance scene where Marianne and Simon are dancing, and you wonder why is it there, much less, why so long? Before that scene, they already establish something is going on between them, so why are we watching them dance for 5 minutes with their dialog muted and only the music being heard? The biggest pitfall of the film, by far, are those first 40 minutes. Watching Simon mope around Paris, seem socially maladjusted, and talk about, or to, Michelle really makes you want to stop watching the movie for it just drags on too long. And even when it thankfully decides that it needs to show us more than him moping and masturbating, they switch it with what could have been a compelling story, which just sort of turns into decently written soft-core porn.
Overall: On the Fence (Leaning Toward Skip It)
While the film has elements I usually appreciate in a movie like romantic drama, violence and character evolution, though not necessarily all in one movie, this comes at the price of spending 40 minutes waiting for that all to happen. Then, once it does, it seems like it only does so because it realizes it needs a story and it feels like it was written so no one could really outshine Corbet, who is one of the writers for this film. With that, the characters of Noura and Marianne feel like they get stunted while Corbet continues to try to dominate the film. Making it so, overall, you feel like with some editing it could be good but, as is, the film is just a mess.