Director Laurent Cantet’s last film’ The Class’ centred on the real life experiences of teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau’s time in a Paris classroom full of racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood.
The powerful film deservedly won the Palme d'Or at Cannes 2008 for its portrayal of the futility of the school system and its power struggles between teacher and student, whilst capturing the subtleties and sensitivities of the group, who come from varying backgrounds.
This time around he sets the film both in New York and in the 1950s, examining the groups dynamic again, but this time around a girl gang. The look: all bobby sox and high sweaters as well as the period soundtrack are immediately pleasing
Cantet clearly has an interest in telling stories about young people and a definite skill at coaxing great performances from inexperienced actors – conveying the energy and the notion of the teenager.
The Joyce Carol Oates novel, from which the film was adapted, was previously made in 1996 with Angelina Jolie, although this is the more faithful to the book.
This will definitely be viewed as a controversial film to some as the girls see themselves as feminists and every man as a potential enemy. They are tough and uncompromising and yet Cantet (in his first English language film) has allowed the actors plenty of room to let their characters breathe and for the audience to care.
He doesn’t make judgment calls nor does he thankfully let the national mood of anti-communist fervour or the polemic of female empowerment and teen angst get in the way of clever plot development of character study.