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Sunday, October 22, 2017, 6:48 a.m.

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Home movies

By Karen Martin

This article was published March 17, 2017 at 1:48 a.m.

Elle, directed by Paul Verhoeven

Elle, directed by Paul Verhoeven

(R, 2 hours 10 minutes)

With Elle, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven has made a troubling and often outrageous black comedy about sexual assault and its fallout. Elle (French for she or her) will make you laugh, but it might also disturb your sleep.

Its success hinges on the nervy, imperious performance of Isabelle Huppert as Michele Leblanc, a savvy and successful computer game entrepreneur. It's an utterly fearless turn in which Huppert defies the audience to withdraw its empathy for an arrogant, amoral character who deals with being violently attacked in her stylish Paris home with remarkable poise. That's because she's not powerless. She intends to take revenge on her attacker. And the way she goes about it is incredibly stealthy and not at all predictable.

Not only is she a piece of work, but she has a comically absurd family that resembles the cast of Arrested Development. Her mother, Irene (Judith Magre), hires younger men to serve as companions and sexual partners. Her disappointingly 20-something son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) is under the thumb of his bossy girlfriend. Her ex-husband Richard (Charles Berling) is a whiny writer and teacher whom she can't help tormenting with understated glee. She sleeps with her best friend/business partner Anna's (Anne Consigny) jerk of a husband, Robert (Christian Berkel), without the slightest hint of guilt. Her father is an infamous murderer who is locked up after killing 27 children in one day. And she is coolly intrigued by an attractive neighbor (Laurent Lafitte) who's married to an earnest do-gooder whose Catholicism rules her every move.

There's no reason to care about what happens to capable, efficient Michele until her conniving reaction to being raped, which borrows much from her computer-game prowess, proves a delectable solution to a confounding mystery.

As a common Arkansas defense would put it, he had it comin'.

Being 17 (not rated, 1 hour, 56 minutes) A spirited, realistic portrayal of the feuding flood of emotions experienced by not-quite-adults, this is a memorable, beautifully photographed drama concerning Damien, a gay teenage military brat living with his physician mother while his dad is serving his country in Africa, who is tormented by fellow student Tom, a scrappy athletic mixed-race kid who lives in a cabin on a remote French Pyrenees mountain. Then Tom's adoptive mother becomes desperately ill, and circumstances require him to move in with Damien and his mom. This leads to a confusing and ever-shifting relationship between the boys. With Sandrine Kiberlain, Alexis Loret, Kacey Mottet Klein, Corentin Fila; directed by Andre Techine. In French and Spanish with subtitles.

Fences (PG-13, 2 hours, 19 minutes) Adapted by August Wilson from his renowned play, Fences follows illiterate former Negro-league baseball player Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington, who also directs) as he fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down.

This is powerful stuff that's only somewhat diluted by the compromises movies demand of plays. While its highest purpose may be the archiving of Washington's and Oscar-winner Viola Davis' performances, it serves as a good introduction to Wilson's world, the America of 1950s Pittsburgh he grew up in and the wider tragedy of men like Troy who, robbed of their own dreams, feel compelled to govern those of others.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes more than 30 minutes of bonus content such as interviews with the cast and crew, a look at how the play was adapted from stage to screen, and a visit to the film's Pittsburgh set. With Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby.

Solace (R, 1 hour 41 minutes) A terrific cast can't overcome a shopworn script. That's the problem with Solace, a cliche-ridden mess of a mystery drama that concerns an FBI agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who, baffled by a series of homicides, gets advice from a retired physician (Anthony Hopkins) with psychic powers. Yeah, right. With Abbie Cornish, Colin Farrell, Marley Shelton, Janine Turner; directed by Afonso Poyart.

Collateral Beauty (PG-13, 1 hour, 37 minutes) More superb actors harnessed to a going-nowhere film vehicle, this drama has such an absurd premise that it will make you laugh, although that's not its intention. Here's the story: A New York advertising big shot (Will Smith), suffering from a tragic loss, starts writing letters to the imaginary characters of Love, Time, and Death. Then he starts getting answers, which bring on the unexpected hilarity. Luckily it has a short running time. With Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley; directed by David Frankel.

The Love Witch (not rated, 2 hours) A stylish, original take on the battle of the sexes, a portrait of sexual fantasy and the cost of self-absorption, The Love Witch introduces us to beautiful Elaine (Samantha Robinson), a potion-producing witch intent on conjuring up a man to love her. Her success is more than she bargained for. With Jared Sanford, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell; directed by Anna Biller.

MovieStyle on 03/17/2017

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