PIFF 2010 website
The Girl on the Train (France; dir. André Téchiné)
Veteran French director André Téchiné hits a whiffle ball with his latest, the boring, overlong, and intellectually muddled The Girl on the Train. Based on a play by Jean-Marie Besset, which itself was based loosely on real events, it tells the story of Jeanne (Emile Dequenne), a dull girl bored with the dull life she's too empty-headed to do anything about. Téchiné would have us think she's a free spirit, and he spends a good portion of the movie's first twenty minutes filming her dreaming the day away, editing it like she was in some bad music video, complete with the crappy music. Her mother (the always gorgeous Catherine Deneuve) wants her to get a job and even helps her set up an interview with an old admirer, crusading lawyer Samuel Bleistein (Michel Blanc). Naturally, Jeanne doesn't get the job. Bleistein is at the forefront of a fight against anti-Semitism. He doesn't need silly little gentile girls wasting space around his office. (Blanc at times comes off as a bulldog version of Martin Scorsese, as excited about lawyering as Marty is about movies.)
Eventually, Jeanne meets Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a college-aged wrestler who stares into the camera like he's Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting
and makes vaguely threatening "jokes." Franck gets them a job as a caretaker at an electronics warehouse, but doesn't tell Jeanne it's a drug front. He gets stabbed, arrested, and rejects her. Now having no one to pay attention to her, the spoiled child draws swastikas on her stomach, cuts herself with a knife, and goes to the police to say six thugs beat her on a train because they thought she was Jewish.
This is the central event of The Girl on the Train, but it takes so long to get there and the lie is treated with such nonchalance, I kept hoping Téchiné was working his way up to something to say. Alas, he is not. There is little point to this story, nothing is learned, and it's not sufficiently interesting to warrant watching the film anyway. Jeanne is a nothing character, absent of any spark or emotion. Franck isn't the only one to fall in love with her, and the devotion men around her show to this brat is baffling. She doesn't even come off as sufficiently broken so we might think they have a white knight complex. Hell, she's not even that pretty.
Téchiné also spends a lot of time looking at Bleistein's life; particularly, there is a whole subplot involving his son (Mathieu Demy), his ex-wife (Ronit Elkabetz), and their child (Jérémie Quaegebeur), who is about to be bar mitzvahed. The divorced parents are just as spoiled as Jeanne, and are actually more insufferable for how highly they think of themselves. For whom are movies about the over-privileged made anymore? There are so few of them left, it has to be the most specific of niche audiences. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people with no real problems. Only the older generation here is portrayed as anything remotely human or doing anything worthwhile. I suppose I should consider that Téchiné is displaying some self-awareness, as Deneuve and Blanc seem as baffled and disgusted by their children as I am. Then again, maybe that's just him playing up to the baby boomers and the self-mythologizing where they convince themselves they are the last generation to have gotten it right. If I pretend to agree, will you go away?
The Girl on the Train plays on 2/17 and 2/18.
Current Soundtrack: The Fantastic Mr. Fox soundtrack
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All text (c) 2010 Jamie S. Rich