Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
A woman’s path to freedom manifests differently for many female protagonists in cinema. They could be battling physical obstacles, or maybe it’s all mental. Regardless, it makes for some rich exploration of the female experience. One woman’s sexual liberation begins with a haircut in writer-director François Ozon’s DOUBLE LOVER. Based on the novel Lives of The Twins by Joyce Carol Oates (under the nom de plume Rosamond Smith), Ozon has crafted a cheeky, campy feature that’s a cross between DEAD RINGERS, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and FINAL ANALYSIS. While this sleek art-house iteration of a Nineties-inspired, pearl-clutching erotic thriller has a sexy swagger, titillating voyeurs with a handful of ribald and audacious elements, it devolves into the absolute silliest of narrative details and a headscratcher of an ending.
Twenty-five-year-old museum docent Chloé Fortin (Marine Vacht) is going through a life-altering change. Not only did she chop off the long hair that had imprisoned her for so long, her diagnosed depression has begun physically manifesting as intense abdominal pains. Seeking sanctuary from further mental and physical anguish, she arranges a therapy session with Dr. Paul Meyer (the French Jeremy Renner Jérémie Renier), a talented psychoanalyst with a staircase straight out of a Hitchcock movie. And just like in the movies, the pair fall in love and move in together after a few months of intense confessionals. Despite his dislike of her cat Milo, everything seems rosy. That is, until Chloé discovers Paul’s concealing something – or rather someone – from his past. He’s got a mischievous, highly competitive, freaking handsome identical twin brother, Dr. Louis Delord (Renier). But Louis’ therapeutic methods are far different than Paul’s – they’re sadistic.
Ozon embraces Hitchcock, DePalma and Cronenberg’s influences – both visually and narratively – with great ease. Mirrors and reflections of the characters against glass panes act as commentary on one’s true sense of self. The French auteur captures the on-the-nose visuals with exciting panache: From Chloé’s wet hair framing her face like prison bars, to the dissolve between her vagina and her eye shedding a tear, to splintered, naked Chloépounding on her reflection in glass window, Ozon classes up what would normally be rudimentary made-for-cable material. In fact, Oates’ novel was previously adapted for the USA network in 1991 as LIES OF THE TWINS, starring Isabella Rossellini.
Maybe it’s because Renier and Vacht actually have scorching chemistry, but this is steamier, sexier and bolder than any of the conservative kink showcased in the FIFTY SHADES franchise. While that series only dared to go as far as “butt plugs,”Ozon brings out a strap-on. Ooh la la! That said, it can get equally as ridiculous and wacky when it comes to its reveals. If you think about the third act for too long, it becomes something akin to an Escher drawing featuring an endless amount of staircases leading to nowhere and everywhere. There’s a confusing twist requiring greater psychological analysis which Ozon waves right on by – one involving Chloé’s relationship to the dual characters played by Jacqueline Bisset. Plus, there’s a point where all you’ll be able to think about is the story Aunt Voula tells in MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING – which, needless to say, is a bizarre idea for an erotic thriller.
Similar to its male protagonist and antagonist, Ozon’s film is both laudable and laughable, delightfully wicked and deliciously ludicrous. However, it’s consistently spellbinding.
DOUBLE LOVER opens in limited release on February 14.