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Next to the blandly flawless feminist heroines played by Demi Moore and Meg Ryan in American movies, Valerie (Virginie Ledoyen), the protagonist in Benoît Jacquot's excellent French film A Single Girl, boasts a whole catalog of shortcomings. Yes, she is young and beautiful (movies are movies, even in the French realist tradition), but she is also selfish, uncertain, irresponsible, and occasionally cruel. Moore's example to the contrary, it's hard to be a saint when you're about to become a single mom, when your boyfriend has been languishing on unemployment, when your own mother behaves more like a dependent child, and when the first job you've been able to find in a year is as a room-service waiter in a luxury hotel. Valerie's indoctrination at the hotel is her indoctrination into a new system of power and intimidation, some of it economic (the female boss who takes the opportunity to humiliate her), some of it sexual (an abusive coworker who tries to blackmail her), and some of it unpredictably, messily human (the unwanted intimacies she is forced to share with the strangers whose bedrooms and lives she briefly enters). As Valerie, Virginie Ledoyen is a revelation, an intense and serious young performer with the kind of open face that the camera loves. Onscreen every instant, she carries the film with ease and assurance.

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newVHS Single Girl VHS (1996/Virginie Ledoyen) $5.99