Michéle is a divorced, alpha female who lives alone. She heads a successful video game company, and apparently still carries a torch for her ex. While at home one afternoon, an intruder sexually attacks her.
Michéle has a complicated past, a bloody mystery lurking that makes her distrustful of the police, so this attack, she deals with on her own. Before long, she starts receiving tantalizing texts that appear to be from the attacker. When she discovers his identity, however, they get caught in a game in which there are no winners.
Here I was thinking that, for me at least, Nocturnal Animals had been the best movie I had seen among the crop competing at the Oscars in the major categories in 2016, and then Elle came from behind and gave me quite a surprise.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, who delivered an astounding winner for me with Black Book, Elle is a movie to watch once, get immersed in it—no distractions, low lights and all—, and never watch it again, because you are not likely going to forget its plot or Isabelle Huppert's electrifying performance in it. I have never seen anything as twisted, or as scary, but a movie that comes somewhat close to it for its demented mind game is, The Skin I Live In by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, wonderfully acted by Antonio Banderas.
In Elle the cat and mouse game turns confusing, both agreeing to the rules, but in a scenario in which the ethics, and the rules, are blurred. You are capable of predicting what is going to happen, but oh...what a ride it is!
I'm not a fan of Isabelle Huppert. I have seen two movies with her in, three counting Elle, namely The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Her, Them), and Louder than Bombs, and she always seemed unfazed, perhaps not quite comfortable in her character even when she was speaking in her mother tongue. In Elle, however, Huppert commands the screen; and the audience, the rest of the ensemble, and particularly her aggressor, are putty in her hands. In my opinion, the Oscar for Best Actress should have gone to her.