Slap Her, She's French Movie Review
If the farcical title for actress-turned-director Melanie Mayron's Slap Her, She's French doesn't scare you away, there's a chance the worn-out premise will. Don't let it. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Mayron and her bubbly cast of newcomers deliver a delectable little treat that's sunny, funny, and far more intelligent than you'd expect.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Gorgeous high school cheerleader Starla (Jane McGregor) dates the Varsity quarterback (Matt Czuchry), is worshipped by the minions roaming the halls of Splendona High, and is on the fast track to become the next host of Good Morning America - her career aspiration. All of that changes when she agrees to host Genevieve LePlouff (Piper Perabo), a French foreign exchange student who might be hiding something devious underneath her black beret.
What caught me off guard was the number of successful jokes Slap Me wrings out of its familiar premise. Remarkable comedic performances by McGregor and Perabo shuttle the film along at a brisk pace. Each displays impressive range and a knowledge of self that creates fully realized characters where thin caricatures might have been plugged in. Beneath Genevieve's unassuming, apologetic persona lies a sleeping tiger, and her coming out party during the halftime show of a football game is hilarious. The crowd's reaction, conveyed in unison, is even better. On the contrary, McGregor - in her feature film debut - lays Starla's entire vapid personality out from the get go, warts and all. What you see is what you get with this Barbie clone, and first impressions mean everything, mainly because there's not much else to her.
Slap Her knows it's not breaking new ground, so it focuses its energies on finding amusing quirks in clever situations. Starla's descent from the top of Mt. Popularity is witnessed by a number of clichéd characters, from her horny French teacher (Michael McKean) to her lush of a mom (Julie White) and her far-smarter-than-you younger brother (Jesse James). But against all odds, the strong supporting cast wrap these tired personas around their fingers to produce some decent laughs.
Mayron uses subtle comic touches to lighten up most scenes. My favorite is the consistent whisper of an accordion playing romantic French serenades whenever Genevieve launches into a monologue. And the screenplay, credited to at least seven different writers, comfortably lands in the safe middle ground between a teen spoof and a knowing, finger-on-the-pulse John Hughes dramedy. Yes, it eventually crumbles like a dry croissant, to borrow a phrase from Genevieve. But not before it slaps its teen target again and again.
Aka She Gets What She Wants.
Hats off to France!