Netflix's Controversial Belgian Movie, 'Girl,' Is Basically 90 Minutes of Victor Polster Spinning (and Crying)
According to Vanity Fair, there is no good reason to watch Netflix's controversial LGBT foreign film, Girl. I agree -- though probably for different reasons.
Vanity Fair points out the three main criticisms people have of this movie:
1. A cis (meaning he identifies as the gender his body is) actor plays a trans character. I can see why this bothers people, insofar as it arguably "takes an opportunity away" from a trans actor. However, isn't the point of acting pretending to be someone you aren't? So I didn't find this hugely upsetting. Casting is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
2. An underage penis is shown a couple of times. Actor Victor Polster plays trans ballerina Lara Verhaeghen. Victor was 15 at the time of filming. He was playing a 16-year-old trans girl.
3. The movie ends (spoiler alert) with Lara cutting off her penis with scissors. It's shown from behind, but it's still pretty awful. Activists worry this will inspire young trans kids to self-mutilate. I haven't seen the research on whether this concern is grounded in reality, but I also kind of feel like the opposite would be true. It's implied in an earlier scene that reassignment surgery kind of depends on having a penis -- you know, so you can turn it into a vagina.
My problem with the movie was that there was no narrative, no plot, no storyline.
It was basically 90 minutes of looking at Victor Polster spinning around and around in ballet class. Or crying. Often in front of a mirror, but also just randomly, at any given time.
According to Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (which is so fantastically amazing, I recommend reading it, even if you have no interest in ever writing a movie), if you want to write a good movie, you've got to start with a "save the cat" moment.
You know, some kind of action that makes me like the main character. Girl doesn't really have that. Lara does nothing that makes me like or care about her. She says very little, rarely speaking more than one or two words at a time.
She drops her brother off at school. She goes to dance class. She goes to the doctor and therapist. She looks in the mirror. She takes hormone pills. She sits next to people at lunch and dinner tables. She cries.
But she never thinks of anyone other than herself.
For example, after uprooting her whole family so she can go to some new dance school (her old one wouldn't let her continue on because, I guess, she'd trained as a boy, but girls start dancing en pointe when they're twelve, so Lara was behind her female peers), her four-year-old brother is sobbing about going to his new preschool, because he doesn't have any friends there.
Rather than show even an ounce of compassion, Lara is physically rough with the child, trying to force him to put his sweater on. During the struggle, the toddler says, "Stop it, Victor!"
Yeah, you're not supposed to "deadname" trans people. But... we are talking about a tiny child who has given no indication he meant to commit a dehumanizing social justice transgression. Probably, given his age, he was just upset and confused.
Not only does Lara fail to show any compassion to this poor child... she actually has a crumbling to pieces moment --
Get used to this face -- it's all you're going to be looking at for, like, 80% of the movie.
-- then scolds him, "Never use that name anymore." As though it is up to the 4-year-old to manage the 16-year-old's feelings, and not the other way around.
Eventually, she lets him hug her while he cries.
But I'm just kind of like, I'm sorry. Was that supposed to help me like you?
During scenes with her dad, a taxi driver who is endlessly understanding, loving, and supportive through this whole process, Lara constantly thwarts his attempts to talk about her life, her feelings, her physical condition, brushing him off with one-word answers: "Good." "Fine." Yes."
During scenes with her therapist, it's the same deal: "Good." "Fine." "Yes." "I guess."
Never at any point in the movie is there any interesting dialogue. Even in the scene where she pretends to be locked out of her apartment in order to spend time with a cute boy (whose mail she previously stole out of his mailbox so she could knock on his door and talk to him -- again, was that supposed to make me like her, or think she was a gross, law-breaking stalker?) and she ends up sucking his dick then getting emotional and running away... the dialogue leading up to the blow job is as follows:
Her: I lost my keys.
Him: You can come in.
Lara spends 30 seconds taking off her jacket, making emotional faces, then sitting next to him on the couch.
Lara spends 30 seconds sitting awkwardly on the couch, then makes brief eye contact with the boy.
They sit awkwardly for 30 more seconds, then he kisses her.
They kiss for 20 seconds, then he tries to touch her boobs but she doesn't let him.
He tries to touch her crotch, she doesn't let him.
She gives him a blow job.
She runs away and never sees him again.
And then literally the rest of the movie is close-ups of Victor Polster spinning around in ballet class.
Or feeling emotional. You'll get about 20 seconds of this face:
Followed immediately by 15 seconds of this face:
Followed immediately by 56 seconds of this face:
If not for Netflix's "skip 10 seconds" button, I would not have made it through this movie.
Then Lara walks around at a party her family is hosting, and no one says anything deeper than, "Hi," "How are you?" "You look pretty!" "You're so pretty!" "What a nice dress!"
Then Lara self-mutilates, goes to the hospital, cries with her dad, recovers, and catches a train.
Tl;Dr -- this isn't a movie worth watching. You can pick from a laundry list of reasons.
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