‘New Girlfriend’ focuses on a storm of gender confusion
A swirl of gender confusion, “The New Girlfriend” tosses all the he/she/we question marks it can find in a tale of contemporary confused sexuality.
Claire (the luminous Anais Demoustier) has been best friends with Laura (Isild Le Besco) since grammar school, through their teens and into their 20s, when each marry. Laura becomes pregnant and has a daughter, but then becomes ill and eventually dies.
At Laura’s funeral, Claire swears she will take care of Laura’s daughter and her grieving husband, David (Romain Duris). But when Claire later drops by to check on David and the baby, she discovers David dressed as a woman. He says it makes the baby more comfortable to have someone who reminds her of her mother.
Claire is initially aghast and doesn’t tell her own husband, Gilles (Raphael Personnaz). But, eventually, she comes to accept David’s cross-dressing and even encourages it; she shows him how to pass in public and they go on shopping sprees together, even spend a weekend in the country. David becomes her new girlfriend.
As the relationship progresses, Claire finds herself coming undone even as David becomes more firmly comfortable as his alter-ego (or true self), Virginia. Yes, shades of Caitlyn Jenner without the Kardashians attached, Claire begins to imagine David in a homosexual relationship with Gilles; she also finds herself fantasizing about a lesbian relationship with the late Laura. Everything and everyone becomes an option.
Director and screenwriter Francois Ozon (“Swimming Pool”), working from Ruth Rendell’s novel, is a well-known and effective sexual provocateur and “The New Girlfriend” is certainly a head-spinner, even if all is not perfectly clear in the end. Then again, the point of head-spinning may just be the spinning itself. There’s plenty of that here.
‘The New Girlfriend’
Rated R for some strong sexual content and graphic nudity
Running time: 108 minutes
At the Detroit Film Theatre