She's One of Us

"Grim"

She's One of Us Review


Christine (Sasha Andres) is an office temp suffering from some sort of spiritual malaise brought about by France's cold, impersonal capitalist society. Or is it just that she's a strange, socially retarded whack-job incapable of making friends or interacting with coworkers? Siegrid Alnoy's She's One of Us presents Christine's dilemma as an ambiguous mixture of aimless dissatisfaction and desperate alienation, yet the film is so infuriatingly languorous and studied that it feels like 3 Women (or Crime and Punishment, or any Alain Resnais effort) as adapted by Albert Camus. Alnoy seems to have a gripe against the dehumanizing modern world. Unfortunately, as far as one can tell from the director's debut, such displeasure is as unfocused and amorphous as her film's torpid, affected narrative.

She's One of Us' international title, For She's a Jolly Good Fellow, might have added a touch of wry irony to this ponderous pseudo-thriller. As it stands, however, Alnoy's formalized film plods along with an unwarranted air of profundity. Christine, her last name (Blanc) hinting at her overwhelming vacuity, shuffles wide-eyed from one high-rise office job to another, failing at each to make an impact on her disinterested colleagues. Determined to make nice-nice with someone, she latches onto her temp agency boss Patricia (Catherine Mouchet), lying about a shared affinity for collectible glass owls and repeating snippets of conversation she's overheard at the grocery store. For reasons unknown, Patricia begins to spend her free time with Christine, but things go haywire when, in a fit of embarrassed rage while at a local swimming pool, Catherine lethally lashes out at her new friend.

Having now committed a (rather disturbing) crime, Christine is reborn as a confident, popular, and ruthless businesswoman, acquiring a live-in boyfriend and a full-time job where her subordinates fear her. Her transformation, however, doesn't alter the empty expression - a look of bemused nothingness that Alnoy doggedly shoots in close-up with clinical fascination - that's permanently etched on her face, nor the fact that the film's set-up is so contrived and artificial that it nearly howls with pretentiousness. A low, steady hum of electronic noise, frequently punctuated by sharp noises, follows Christine as she visits menacing locales of consumerism like the supermarket and the mall (where she enjoys placidly sitting amidst the rush of busy shoppers). But though the film's icily composed and detached mise-en-scène contains an unsubtle critique of materialism and market capitalism, Christine's beef against her callous environment and compatriots is so ill-defined that the film eventually becomes more maddening than unsettling.

As Christine ingratiates herself into the society that had previously rejected her - "I'm like everyone else now," she tells Degas (Carlo Brandt), the cop hot on her trail for Patricia's death - she becomes a nasty, vicious woman who (likely intentionally) orchestrates the suicide of her affable work associate. She's One of Us seems to make the case that becoming a participating member of the repulsive modern world is akin to (or somehow necessitates a form of) murder, and thus the film's optimistic ending finds Christine making a clean break from her not-so-improved life. To be happy, people must not be one of "us" (i.e. the lemmings who mindlessly accept routine lives) but rather unique, non-conforming individuals who recognize that toeing the company line is a useless, soul-crushing dead-end. On the other hand, perhaps Alnoy is saying that Christine becomes one of "us" - namely, the iconoclastic rebels like herself who don't kowtow to perceived norms - by rejecting 21st century society. Either way, if audience members are able to refrain from scoffing at the ludicrousness of such nebulous discontent, their tolerance for meandering, second-rate existential hogwash is greater than mine.

Aka Elle est des nôtres.



She's One of Us

Facts and Figures

Run time: 98 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 24th September 2003

Distributed by: Lesiure Time

Production compaines: Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, B.C. Films, Canal+, Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Béatrice Caufman

Starring: as Christine Blanc, Pierre-Félix Gravière as Sébastien, as Eric, as Patricia, as le père, Geneviève Mnich as la mère, as Danjard, as policier accueil, Dominique Valadié as Marie-Noëlle, la voisine, as le directeur de Promocash

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