Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
17 Girls: Pregnant Peer Pressure
was a terrible plan, made possible by the Massachusetts welfare system. Of
course, the French could relate. The
notorious Gloucester incidence of mass high school pregnancy is transplanted to
the similarly depressed city of Lorient, where much outrage and scandal results
when seventeen students deliberately seek impregnation and emancipation in
Delphine & Muriel Coulin’s 17 Girls (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
first, Camille is alarmed by her unplanned pregnancy, but she soon embraces it,
out of necessity and defiance. For those
who seek the type-A trendsetter’s approval, a growing stomach becomes a quick
ticket to acceptance. Camille begins to
envision a future in which they all drop out of school and live communally,
pooling their welfare payments. They
would be the village raising the children they are admittedly not very
interested in, but would serve as their breadwinners with the state.
surprisingly, Lorient parents are quite alarmed by this turn of events, even
those whose daughters have not yet fallen in with Camille’s group. Some express their displeasure rather
vehemently, which only drives the girls further away. Frankly, for many of the pregnant students,
this seems like a reasonable option in a dead-end city like Lorient.
Coulins give their hot button subject a consistently matter-of-fact treatment,
leaving the film open to many possible interpretations. Camille could easily have been portrayed as a
cult-like figure exercising a malevolent influence over her peers. Yet, she is a largely sympathetic figure. Still, they do not bury their heads in the
sand with respects to the dangers of underage pregnancy, depicting the very
real health risks for Clémentine, a petit girl with a comparatively weak constitution.
Camille, Louise Grinberg announces herself as a star of the future. She clearly establishes her character’s
manipulative nature, but also her capacity for genuine concern. Viewers might feel like they are watching a
manifestation of the dark side of Blair from The Facts of Life. Yara
Pilartz is also quite compelling as Clémentine.
However, the other fifteen girls tend to come and go from the frame without
making an appreciable impact.
To their credit, the Sisters Coulin do not take
a lot of easy outs. Nonjudgmental to a
fault, audiences will likely leave 17
Girls knowing they saw something, but unsure how they feel about it. It is not likely to win many fans with the
Lorient Chamber of Commerce either.
While a tighter focus on fewer girls might have worked better, several
worthy performances still have room to shine through. Recommended for Francophiles with a taste for
social issue dramas, 17 Girls opens
this Friday (9/21) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza.
Labels: French Cinema