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Language: French w/ English subtitles
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Bouli Lanners, Sabila Moussadek
Director: Jeanne Labrune
Run time: 95 minutes
DVD distributor: First Run Features
Isabelle Huppert is probably the best French actress working today. She has given electrifying, erotic and deeply personal performances in dozens of good movies over the past decade, like La Vie Promise and Merci Pour Le Chocolat. And she is once again magnificent in 2010’s Special Treatment, on DVD now from First Run Features.
The thing is, Isabelle Huppert is really the only GREAT thing about Special Treatment. She plays a prostitute, one who services her clients in a variety of ways, dressing up and dressing down and sometimes, it appears, a little rough stuff. She wants to get out of the life, and a particularly disturbing encounter with a client appears to be the last straw. But she doesn’t seem to know how to quit.
The prostitute is one story, and at the same time Special Treatment tells the story of Xavier, a therapist with marital troubles who is just going through the motions with his clients.
We’re supposed to see parallels between Xavier’s therapy sessions and Alice’s prostitution sessions. He charges people for ten sessions at a time, so does she. He questions the validity of what he’s doing, so does she. His job seems to be distancing him from those around him, including his wife. So does hers.
The thing is, I get it. Okay, they’re similar. It feels too heavy-handed to me – after all, what prostitute has ever offered ten-session packages to her customers, and why bother doing that unless you want to make it totally clear that THEY HAVE SIMILAR PROFESSIONS!
When Xavier and Alice finally get together, and might be able to help each other in some way, the movie picks up a bit. But again, it’s Huppert who makes the whole thing worthwhile. Her performance is bold, strong and vulnerable all at the same time.
The only problem I have with it is that she never takes her clothes off. Come on, you’re playing a prostitute. If any role calls for tasteful nudity, it’s this one. If you had done THAT, there would have been TWO reasons to watch Special Treatment.