Tribeca Film Festival Review: “Slut in a Good Way”

Black and white cinematography enhances the fable-like “Slut in a Good Way.” | Photo by Laurent Guérin

BY RANIA RICHARSON | Teenagers experience love, sex, longing, and heartbreak outside the gaze of adults in “Slut in a Good Way” — a Canadian romantic comedy written by Catherine Léger and directed by Sophie Lorain.

With parents, teachers, and bosses absent from the story, the focus is on the adolescent mindset, along with the impetuous behavior and acute emotions that characterize their world. Set in a small town in Quebec, the French language film features an endearing cast of high schoolers who become entangled in misunderstandings as they pursue the opposite sex.

Black and white cinematography enhances the fable-like tale. A sense of timelessness is heightened with old footage of diva Maria Callas singing “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (“Love is a rebellious bird”), from the opera, “Carmen.”

The original title, “Charlotte a du Fun,” translates into “Charlotte Has Fun,” and the drama revolves around her quest for fulfillment. Recovering from a broken heart, Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard), a confident top student, is ready to live life to the fullest — until harsh judgment brings out her self-doubt.

After she and two girlfriends see a number of appealing boys working at the Toy Depot, they decide to apply for part-time jobs during the holiday season. The big box store, navigated by skateboard, is a striking space that’s perfect for flirting in the course of a workday. Floor to ceiling shelves are filled with children’s products, such as oversized stuffed animals, that make it a playful environment.

Charlotte begins her new life with liberated exuberance, becoming intimate with a number of boys. Meanwhile, Aube (Rose Adam) the naïve romantic of the three, is unable to convince the others that she has achieved the key milestone — losing her virginity. She develops a crush on a boy whose intentions may be opportunistic and who, painfully, was one of Charlotte’s conquests.

In contrast, Mégane (Romane Denis) is a rebel and contrarian with a cynical view of love and an opinion at every turn. Despite their ups and downs, the three maintain a strong bond of adolescent friendship as they scrutinize items at a sex shop, get drunk on beer in the park, and walk through a minefield of potential boyfriends.

Some of the teens appear years younger than their apparent ages, particularly Charlotte, a 17-year-old in the story. Canada’s age of consent — when a young person can legally agree to sexual activity — is 16 years. (In the US, the age of consent varies by state from 16 to 18, and around the world, it ranges from puberty to marriage.)

A Halloween party reveals the personalities of the three friends — energetic Charlotte is a hockey player, feminine Aub is Wonder Woman, and politically minded Mégane comes as Che Guevara. Despite the sexually open milieu, Charlotte is horrified to learn that the boys have been bragging about sleeping with her and that she has developed a bad reputation, even with other females. The unfair double standard still exists, and she asks, “Am I a slut in a good way, or am I a slut in a bad way?”

This leads to an audacious idea that takes the charity collection jars by the store’s cash registers to a new level. She decides to raise money to promote abstinence, and she convinces her friends to join her in a vow of chastity. When the end of the holiday season arrives, the clash of the sexes is resolved at the celebratory Christmas party.

With humor and originality, “Slut in a Good Way” gets right into the hearts and minds of teenagers, in an authentic, contemporary style.

Sun., 4/22, 8pm at Regal Cinemas Battery Park (102 North End Ave., at Vesey St.), Mon., 4/23, 9pm at Regal, and Wed., 4/25, 4:15pm at Cinépolis Chelsea (260 W. 23rd St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). For tickets and more info, visit tribecafilm.com/festival. To order by phone, call 646-502-5296 ($23, evening/weekend; $12, matinee; service fees apply for web and phone orders).

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