Films focusing on Isabelle Huppert in dubious encounters with young blonde girls seem to be well on the way to becoming a genre of their own. After seducing and ultimately holding hostage Chloë Grace Moertz earlier this year in Neil Jordan’s wild romp Greta, Huppert now turns her attentions on Galatéa Bellugi in Eva Ionesco’s Golden Youth (Une jeunesse dorée).
Rose (Bellugi) is introduced in the film’s opening as an orphaned 17-year-old, who moves out of her group home and into her artist boyfriend’s shared apartment. There, a ragtag group of friends awaits, and they are off to Le Palace, Paris’s 1970s equivalent of Studio 54.
These initial scenes are some of the film’s most fascinating, with gloriously campy costumes and extravagant performances of modern dance. Unfortunately, they serve only as a backdrop to introduce Rose and boyfriend Michel (Lukas Ionesco) to the masked and opulently wealthy Lucile (Huppert) and her husband Hubert (Melvil Poupaud), who are immediately angling to seduce the youngsters. Thus, Rose and Michel are promptly swept off to a remote Chateau, where they are drawn into the luxurious lifestyle of Lucile and Hubert. Yet beyond the allure of money (and the promise of artistic success for Michele), this odd four-way dynamic is lacking in tension or motivation.
Even the performances fall flat: Huppert has very little to go on in her character, and creates hardly more than a sketched caricature; as the protagonist of the film, Rose remains emotionally inaccessible – never rising above being a beautiful doll with occasional outbursts of rage and constant youthful jealousy, but little agency of her own.
Golden Youth is, at times, visually stunning: both costumes and cinematography stand out, but ultimately cannot distract from a weak script. While the narrative set-up doubtlessly has potential, the promise of the film’s exposition is never even remotely realized.
CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Melvil Poupaud, Galatéa Bellugi, Lukas Ionesco
DIRECTOR: Eva Ionesco
WRITER: Eva Ionesco, Simon Liberati
SYNOPSIS: Rose and Michel live their first big and innocent love story in Paris in 1979, at the heart of the Palace years. At a party, they meet Lucille and Hubert, a bohemian bourgeois couple of about fifty, who will take them under their wing and shake their lives.