“The New Girlfriend” Has a Special Secret
By Skip Sheffield
“The New Girlfriend” is one curious little movie by French writer-director Francois Ozon. For one thing the girlfriend is not a girl but a man who enjoys dressing as a woman.
That would be David (Romain Duris), whose alter ego is Virginia. David is the husband of Laura (Islid Le Besco), who is best friends for life with Claire (Anais Demoustier).
Claire is killed off early in the plot, adapted from a novel by Ruth Rendell. David is left with a young daughter Lucie (Brune Kalnykow) he is not sure how to care for.
Claire steps in to help David, and she gets more than she bargained for. David it seems has been a transvestite all through his marriage. Though David was literally in the closet, with the death of his wife he is free to pursue his predilections, and share them with Claire, who has become his closest friend.
Claire is played by Anais Demoustier, a young (age 28) distinctive-looking woman with big brown eyes and adorable freckles. Claire is originally put off by David’s confession, but in time she learns to appreciate both David and Virginia. This leaves her husband Gilles (Raphael Personnaz) baffled, and suspicious she may be falling for David.
“The New Girlfriend” is billed as a comedy, but it is not laugh-out-loud funny. Romain Duris is an extraordinarily handsome man, with heavy beard and unmistakably masculine, not matter how much makeup or frilly frocks he wears.
The French are much more sophisticated than Americans, or perhaps blasé about matters sexual and gender-based. This movie tweaks our sensibilities and challenges one to accept another person no matter what he or she professes to believe. It's hard to argue with that.