I don’t have much to say about the whole Caitlyn Jenner-break the internet thing. I hope she’s happy and getting happier with her transition. I’m not a fan of the Jenner-Kardashian machine, and it feels weird to me to take something so intimate and personal and seek to profit from it, but I guess she’s only following the family business model. I just hope it doesn’t cheapen the real struggle that less privileged people go through with their own transitions every day, out here in the real world.
Laurence Anyways is a 2012 movie by talented Canadian director Xavier Dolan. It’s about a man, Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) who, in the late 80s and his early 30s, decides he must live as the woman he’s always known himself to be. Hurdle number one: breaking the news to his girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clement), who goes through the predictable knee-jerk reactions – are you gay, have you ever worn my panties, I’m leaving you. But she can’t really leave him. Leave her, I should say, and soon becomes his biggest supporter.
Dolan is a young director who’s still finding his way with this film. There are some crazy set pieces that don’t always work, but are still admirable and some quite memorable. He’s clearly got a visual talent beyond your average director. But he brings this movie in at nearly three hours, and it just doesn’t need to be that long. In fact, the film’s first 20 minutes are probably the most editable. And the interview framework feels forced and unnecessary.
Poupaud and particularly Clement are masterful here. I really enjoyed scenes between Laurence and his ice-bitch mother, played wonderfully by Nathalie Baye. There’s a lot this film is telling us in sideways glances and throwaway remarks. Poupaud’s quiet moments work like magic. The first day Laurence wears a dress to his job (as a college professor) is a minute in film that needs to be studied. The silence is crafted beautifully. Clement, meanwhile, gets to be the explosive one, her red hair accenting her passionate missives like fireworks.
There are some mis-steps here but Dolan presents his flamboyant film with confidence, if a little too much music, a little too stylized. But it’s something to behold, and this kid just keeps getting better and better.