Cleveland International Film Festival: Slut in a Good Way

This review first appeared on Filmotomy.com.

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Slut in a Good Way is a sex-positive comedy with a feminine edge. Sophie Lorain, in her second directorial outing, celebrates the sexual cravings of teenage girls and the double-standards boys evade. Lorain’s young ladies are delightfully far from demure. The director clearly had no plan to make a movie about the typical well-to-do girls found in (male-made) sex comedies.

With the first scene, set in an adult boutique, we’re introduced to Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard), our protagonist, and her two best friends Aube (Rose Adam) and Mégane (Romain Denis) as they peruse and pose with bawdy merchandise, sans judgment. It’s a smart and lively way to kick things off.

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They’re there so Charlotte, age seventeen, can buy a bustier—that isn’t even comfortable—for her boyfriend’s viewing pleasure. But it becomes all for naught when he later reveals he’s gay. Convinced that they’d been soulmates, she’s understandably devastated. So naturally the trio goes to a park to drink beer and smoke a water bottle bong.

In a hilarious sequence of jump cuts, Charlotte tipsily navigates the various stages of broken-heartedness – pitifully crying, cursing his name to the heavens, then pathetically confessing her undying love—until she’s squatting on the ground mid-pee, reaching for a leaf to wipe with, to the amusement of her friends.

Her public urination catches the attention of a passing police cruiser, prompting the trio to sprint away and take refuge in Jouets Dépôt (picture a Home Depot with the products of a Toys R Us). Turns out, many of the store’s employees are attractive young men, so of course the girls decide to fill out job applications. And, thanks to the approaching holiday season, they’re hired.

Charlotte quickly notices that much of the staff seem to be, um, intimate with one another. So, she sees this new workplace as rife with chances to get over her ex. And before she knows it, Charlotte has a near “perfect score,” meaning she’s slept with almost every male coworker—comically illustrated through a montage of her, ahem, conquests, underscored by a commanding Carmen aria. Talk about empowerment.

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Come to think of it, the toy store setting for this story is actually quite clever. The content of this film—the conversations had and the actions taken by the characters—is pretty mature. All the while, they’re surrounded by objects of childhood. Grown-ups in a land of playthings, using each other as playthings…

Word of Charlotte’s adventures spreads, and she’s slut-shamed, a painful reminder that women aren’t as free to oat-sow as men. Essentially, Charlotte’s judged for doing the very thing her male counterparts get attaboys for. Fed up with the hypocrisy, she convinces the female half of the workforce to rip a page from the Aristophanes playbook and launch a sex strike.

Gender issues are not the sole focus of the film’s ire, though. Slut in a Good Wayhas plenty to say about working in corporate retail, too. When the girls receive their first paychecks, Mégane, the anarchist of the group, is appropriately appalled at how little they make. So, she adopts a modern Che Guevara-like persona, to the fear of her managers. As Mégane, Romain Denis is a comedic gem. She brings the chaos, adorning a horned Viking-inspired hat so folks know that she’s to be feared.

Rose Adam is rather funny as well, but in a much softer fashion. It seems every group has the quiet friend. That’s Aube, the totally-not-a-virgin awkward one who’s perhaps the most relatable. Every so often, she manages to casually steal the spotlight, like when she takes a Halloween party a bit too seriously and shows up as a full-fledged Wonder Woman.

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Slut in a Good Way is an absolute pleasure. Lorain’s direction has a liberated nature to it; she feels as unbound as her cast. The velvety black and white cinematography frequently looks as though it’s just a hair shy of going out of focus, lending a tender quality to the imagery. This micro-budget aesthetic gives an approachability to the subject matter, which the film treats earnestly without veering into Big Deal territory.

Maybe Lorain’s most confounding choice is a Bollywood-style end credits number. Although it’s mostly unrelated to the plot, it’s not completely unfounded, considering the score has a South Asian flare and the favorite pastime of Jouets Dépôt’s staff is a dance video game that utilizes the same style of music. But still. It’s a strange, albeit amusing, choice.

Nephew Frank