J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

BG: A Modern Love Story

These French teens make Larry Clark’s kids look cautious and prudish. They start with a game of Truth or Dare that is only dares, but they quickly dispense with the bottle. Pretty soon, it is all orgies, all the time for this group of largely unsupervised upper middle class high school students. However, there will eventually be a price to pay in Eva Husson’s unsubtly titled Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

George is the school’s sexually confident queen bee, who takes the more reserved Laetitia under her wing. They become fast friends and just as fast frienemies when the well-heeled Alex spurns George in favor of Laetitia. Not used to be on the outs, George responds by going nuclear, inspiring the first drunken happening she vernacularly dubs a “Bang Gang.” Yet to her surprise, Laetitia, Alex, and the rest of his vapid circle acclimate themselves much more readily to the Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice lifestyle than she does.

In a nearly complete role reversal, Alex is soon throwing Bang Gangs nearly every day, while George commences a cautious courtship with Gabriel, the rumpled aspiring electronica composer Laetitia has been carrying a torch for. Things will be further complicated when George is publically shamed by an online video-posting outside the group’s admittedly loose guidelines.

A film like BG needs to be excruciatingly honest about its emotional consequences or just say the Hell with it and double down on titillation. Rather awkwardly, Husson spends most of the film trying to be half-pregnant, which guarantees it will fail on both scores. True to form, the resulting film manages to be simultaneously boring and smarmy.

Husson is in fact a talented filmmaker. Her short film Promises, essentially an alternate music video for The Presets’ tune of same name, featuring sexy bloody vampires, is entertaining, in a shamelessly slick way. When considered alongside BG, it rather suggests Husson is recovering from a Bret Easton Ellis influence, which is always dangerous. Regardless, she way over-indulges in the pseudo-apocalyptic portents of a rash of commuter train derailments and the scorching hot summer’s mounting death toll from heatstroke. That would probably be a Lars von Trier influence, which is also a tricky business.

Nevertheless, she coaches her young, mostly unprofessional cast into some very good, depressingly believable performances. Marilyn Lima and Daisy Broom, who swapped their natural blonde and brunette hair colors, are especially engaging as George and Laetitia, respectively. They actually get at some truths regarding high school social dynamics, but it all just gets buried under the film’s excesses and languid pace.

Let’s be honest, we have been here before and seen plenty of similar porn-obsessed borderline sociopathic teenagers frittering away their advantages. This time they happen to be French, but there is nothing intrinsically special about them. Furthermore, when the promised consequences finally crash the party, they are so ambiguous, it leaves viewers baffled regarding Husson’s intentions. A pretentious mess from any perspective, Bang Gang is not recommended when it opens this Friday (6/17) in New York, at the Village East.

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