Cannes: Party Girl review

Party Girl centres on the highly engaging Angelique (Angelique Litzenburger), a sixty year-old hostess working at a ‘cabaret’ club somewhere on the French-German border. Angelique doesn’t take to the stage and strip anymore, and she doesn’t seem to get much attention from the men in the club, but she does continue to get dressed up, put on her make-up, and hope that there will be someone who will look past her age, or perhaps even see it as a positive.

There’s a definite sense that Angelique can’t go on living her life in this way. Surprisingly, her way out may come when she reconnects with a former client, a gentleman she’s trying to lure back to the club, and he springs a sudden proposal of marriage.

Michel (Joseph Bour), appears to be a good man and is also kind and generous to Angelique’s four children. But does Angelique actually love Michel and is she willing to give up her old life?

That’s the question that drives the plot, but there’s not really any doubt about the answer. Directors Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis have unfortunately decided to tip off the audience to every minor or major turn that might be coming, and so there’s a real sense of inevitability to proceedings.

But this does seem to support the films thesis. Angelique shows a real inability to affect change within her life, even when the stasis threatens to destroy her. Still, theme is one thing and a compelling narrative is another, and the directors don’t do quite enough to keep things interesting, offset the built-in sense of inevitability and keep the story engaging.

Thankfully, Litzenburger is superb as Angelique, with an exceptionally characterful face. Her performance is understated but there’s a great deal of pain behind her eyes, and in the moments where he temper flares up, we see some well-played switches of mood.

Cinematographer Julien Poupard seems to understand that Litzenburger is the film’s foundation, and his shots often keep her face very tightly framed, even when others are speaking. The look of the film is a little rough and ready in general, which works okay in the group scenes of Angelique and her ‘girls’, or her and her family. The more intimate scenes, however, needed a softer touch.

Party Girl is a somewhat interesting character study, finding intrigue in one woman’s inability to change. Sadly, however, there’s never quite enough depth, nor confidence in the execution, for the film to really feel significant.