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‘MILF’: Film Review

French actress and comedian Axelle Laffont stars alongside Virginie Ledoyen and Marie-Josee Croze in her feature directing debut.

Believe it or not, the term “MILF” is not necessarily considered to be offensive in France. And so perhaps that’s why actress-turned-director Axelle Laffont decided to build her entire first feature around that concept and even use it as the title, focusing on a trio of forty-something women — only two of them are moms — who transform into, well, MILFs during a long summer holiday on the Cote d’Azur. (Just in case you didn’t know that they were really MILFs, a flashing graphic appears early on in the movie to designate them as such. “MILF! MILF! MILF!” it says.)

Ostensibly a comedy but never actually funny, the film co-stars Virginie Ledoyen (The Beach) and Marie-Josee Croze (The Barbarian Invasions) — two rather talented performers who deserve better material than this. They play alongside Laffont and opposite three young men who were clearly cast for their abs and not their acting skills, resulting in a movie that drags on from the moment it begins while tossing out jokes that hit below the belt in all senses of the term.

There are cracks about pubic hair, penis size, masturbation, fellatio and orgasms. One of the guys does a dance inspired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “sox on cox” gag, while this has to be the first French film in wide release (courtesy of StudioCanal) that uses the phrase “J’essaye de te faire squirter” (translation: “I’m trying to make you squirt”) as a punchline.

At best, Laffont tries to add a feminine voice to a genre that’s been historically dominated by men, but the result is so bad that it only proves how, when it comes to making vulgar sex comedies, there are no gender barriers. Local box office has been poor considering that the film cost more than $5 million, with playdates in Francophone territories wrapping out a release that will end well before summer even begins.

The director stars as Elise, a single mother who heads with besties Sonia (Croze) and Cecile (Ledoyen) to the latter’s fabulous beach house in the south, which they’re supposed to clean out before it’s sold off. Later on we learn that Cecile is a widow, which may explain why Ledoyen spends at least two-thirds of the film pouting around the living room, until her character finally becomes a MILF as well.

Right away the gals cross paths with three dudes — Paul (Wael Sersoub, a Matthew McConaughey look-alike), Julien (BMX champion Matthias Dandois) and Markus (Victor Meutelet) — who run a sailing school and immediately fall for the older ladies. Lots of high jinks and musical montages ensue, though there’s hardly any conflict and the only recurring theme seems to be that, when it comes to sex, young men are too addicted to YouPorn to know what real intercourse is. But luckily the MILFs — especially the promiscuous Elise — are there to show them how it’s done.

What else is there to say? Laffont keeps the camera (courtesy of La Haine‘s Pierre Aim, shooting in vacation mode here) fixated on everyone’s nude or semi-nude body, especially her own, to the point that her female gaze could be said to outrival the male one of Abdellatif Kechiche. There’s also a scene where Markus, who used to babysit Cecile’s children and now has the hots for her, compares his mom’s giant breasts to Cecile’s smaller ones, in what may be the worst pickup line in movie history. And then there’s Julien, who may have the worst collection of tattoos in movie history, including the words “Bonjour” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” what looks like a drawing of Bruce Lee with an Afro haircut, a map of Texas and the logo for Michael Jackson’s Bad.

If Laffont was trying to make a film about female empowerment, or about how women in their 40s can still live lives of beauty and desire, then her message has been muddled by jokes that are often tasteless and always lame. She thinks she’s clever but really, she isn’t, and her approach to comedy can be summed up by a T-shirt Elise wears in the third act that reads: “I’m a virgin. (This is a very old T-shirt.)” Otherwise, for those viewers who didn’t get the title, Paul discourses at one point on why Elise and her friends should be happy with such a label. “You’re not cougars, you’re MILFs!” he tells them, in what’s meant to be the movie’s highest form of praise.

Production companies: A Single Man, StudioCanal, Nexus Factory, uMedia, Le Labo Paris
Cast: Axelle Laffont, Virginie Ledoyen, Marie-Josee Croze, Matthias Dandois, Victor Meutelet, Wael Sersoub, Florence Thomassin
Director: Axelle Laffont
Screenwriters: Jerome L’Hotsky, Stephane Kramer, Axelle Laffont, Jean-Francois Halin
Producer: Julien Madon
Executive producer: Philippe Guez
Director of photography: Pierre Aim
Production designer: Patrick Durand
Costume designer: Reem Kuzayli
Editor: Clemence Samson
Composer: Ben Molinaro
Casting director: Emmanuelle Prevost
Sales: StudioCanal

In French
96 minutes

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