A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Elle is a French-language thriller from director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) that's filled with violence, rape, rough sex, and graphic sexual material. A woman is raped and beaten; other characters are bashed on the head, and spurting blood is shown. Images from a fictional, violent video game are shown, with suggested violence against female characters. A car crash causes a bloody injury, and guns are fired. A TV news report shows a mass murder, with gory crime scene photos. Characters die. Nudity includes full-frontal (female) ane topless women, and both men's and women's bare behinds are shown. Sex and masturbation are strongly implied. Language (in French, with English subtitles), includes "f--k," "c--t," "s--t," and lots more. Characters drink and smoke at parties, and some get tipsy. Fans of great performances will want to see Isabelle Huppert in an acclaimed role, but the movie is too mature for anyone but adult viewers.
What's the story?
In ELLE, video game designer Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is raped in her home. The masked intruder escapes, and she goes on like nothing happened. Meanwhile, she's having an affair with the husband (Christian Berkel) of her best friend/partner (Anne Consigny), the game her company is working on is overdue, and her son is stuck in a horrible relationship with a pregnant woman. Then, a cruel and invasive video surfaces at the office, and Michele becomes convinced that her rapist is actually someone she works with. But when the attacker breaks into her home again, Michele's life takes a surprising, very dark turn.
Is it any good?
Director Paul Verhoeven's first movie in French features an elegant, powerful Isabelle Huppert; she adds weight to what's really a pretty basic, stretched-out story filled with sex and violence. The Dutch filmmaker (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) spent a couple of decades in Hollywood, making English-language movies that seemed trashy and sensational. Interestingly, now that he's working in French, the material somehow seems less shocking and more thoughtful.
Verhoeven is already known for pushing the boundaries of onscreen depravity, but when the furor dies down, it's clear that he tries to go deeper, hoping to expose hypocrisy and showing how symbols and representations can be turned upside down. In Elle, for example, a house decorated with a huge Christmas Nativity scene actually hides something much darker. But while certain images and ideas are powerful, it's not hard to solve the movie's big mystery, and the wrap-up is a bit rushed and tidy for the movie's 130-minute running time. Still, Huppert's icy, slightly cracked performance is strong -- and a big reason for the movie's overall success.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex portrayed in the movie? Is it linked to love? Passion? Violence? What message does that send? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Is Michele a strong female character? A role model?
How would you describe the movie's attitude toward video games? Do you think it's trying to make a specific point?
- In theaters: November 11, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 14, 2017
- Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Anne Consigny, Laurent Lafitte
- Director: Paul Verhoeven
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence involving sexual assault, disturbing sexual content, some grisly images, brief graphic nudity, and language
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.