Based on Edouard Louis’s novel published at the tender age of 21, The End of Eddy, Reinventing Marvin articulates the difficulty of coming out within a hostile working-class environment. Anne Fontaine’s latest packs some serious punch but it is not without its shortcomings.
As the title suggests, this is a tale of reinventing oneself. While of course it is the story of a child discovering their acting talents, this is also that of a working-class boy hoping to escape poverty. Unfortunately, there are real problems with this film’s depiction of social mobility. Success is portrayed in clichéd terms that suggest all poor people are not just unhappy in their social spheres but, ultimately, repressed by them.
Enjoyment of Reinventing Marvin is also contingent on your feelings toward its two eponymous actors. The younger Marvin is played by newcomer Jules Porier whose constant gaze into the middle distant, near expressionless work, didn’t do much for us. Rising star Finnegan Oldfield (most notable in Bertrand Bonello’s terrorism thriller Nocturama) helps things along though. Oldfield manages to balance tenderness with rage but inevitably both of these roles are overshadowed by Isabelle Huppert who stars as herself (who else?).
There seems to have been some disagreement between Anne Fontaine and Edouard Louis in the process of adapting his work. Louis’s name does not appear in the end credits, a worrying sign for any biopic. Fontaine’s compensation for the author’s absence gives Reinventing Marvin a lack of credibility.
From the misery of rural poverty to the glamour of the Parisian theatre scene, Reinventing Marvin’s depiction of social mobility has some serious problems. Based on a memoir, bias is unavoidable, but this is just unfair.
CAST: Finnegan Oldfield, Jules Porier, Isabelle Huppert, Grégory Gadebois
DIRECTOR: Anne Fontaine
WRITERS: Anne Fontaine, Pierre Trividic (screenplay), Edouard Louis (novel, The End of Eddy)
SYNOPSIS: A boy’s chance encounter with a drama teacher opens the doors to a world that offers him the chance to escape his situation.