Francois Ozon’s fascinating, voyeuristic metanarrative In the House ended with a very obvious reference to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The director continues his distinctly uncomfortable, psychosexual odyssey through the realm of a Hitchcockian prism, this time exploring a husband (Romain Duris) who starts dressing in his recently deceased wife’s clothes with the help of her best friend (Anaïs Demoustier).
It feels uncomfortable but not in a particularly successful way, insincere rather than coming from a place of truth. It feels like the idea came before the characters. The film never lets you into David/Virginia’s emotional state and it’s not clear whether his/her transvestism is being played for laughs or creepiness, either way it does not sit right. I couldn’t help but think of the incredible Amazon Prime comedy/drama Transparent, which so beautifully illustrates the heart wrenching, internal confusion of gender identity and wonder why The New Girlfriend struggles to get its tone right, leaving it cliched and superficial. Ozon likes things to sit uncomfortably but it just doesn’t work here, further emphasised by an ending which ties things up sickly sweetly and all too fast, it’s frankly ridiculous and jarring everything that came before it. The New Girlfriend propagates negative stereotypes, shifting from psychological melodrama to bedroom face, never sure what it is or what it is trying to do. An unconvincing mess.
Review by David Rank
The New Girlfriend is out now in the UK. Running time 108 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).