Alice Bergerac (Isabelle Huppert), a disaffected call girl and Xavier Demestre (Bouli Lanners), a shrink with a crumbling marriage are introduced by an acquaintance, Francois (Frederic Pierrot) and discover they have a lot in common professionally: both have clients, both charge for sessions, both take on roles that serve the needs, psychological or otherwise, of those they serve. When Alice seeks help to quit her profession, Xavier sends her to Pierre Cassagne (Richard Debuisine), who crossed his path at an art auction where they tried to outbid each other for a statuette of an angel. But Pierre declines and tells her she doesn't need him.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The most impressive element of Special Treatment is the level of performances from a top cast, not least Isabelle Huppert as Alice, a conflicted and self-contradictory call girl. She ain't cheap, either. Alice is matter of fact about dressing up as a Japanese or a 1950s housewife for clients (for an extra 50 euros thanks) as she is about getting out the restraints and dog food bowl for others.
Across town in his consulting room, Xavier is a silent ear to his own assortment of clients, while at home (for reasons not made clear) his wife is fed up with him. He moves to a hotel, which is where he beckons Alice, having got her number from an acquaintance. Things don't start well between them, and the film languishes in a kind of stupor from here on in.
The least impressive element of Special Treatment is the screenplay, which is built on the single and rather immaterial idea, that call girls and psychiatrists share similar work patterns. This just isn't enough to build a film on, and it shows in the early stages when we are dragged through Alice's routines with a variety of johns, to very little purpose except to see that she does her job adequately and with a firm hand. She sends off one client who gets out of hand (behind closed doors to us) with a knife.
Alice's lack of an exit strategy is introduced as a surprise and has no dynamic effect on the screenplay. Both the characters of Francois (Frederic Pierrot) and Pierre Cassagne (Richard Debuisine) are stuck in with little purpose, although Debuisine (also co-writer) is exceptional in his role as Pierre the busy shrink at a mental hospital, to whom Alice is sent by Xavier. This, too, is problematic; no shrink would send a client to a colleague they met just once at an art auction.
But even with these flaws, the cast manage to make the film engaging to some extent, although it becomes less and less interesting - until the decidedly uninteresting ending.
Review by Louise Keller:
Exploring the parallels between a psychiatrist and prostitute, the story by Jeanne Labrune and Richard Debuisne harbours an interesting idea. Both have clients, both charge for sessions, both take on roles that serve the needs, psychological or otherwise, of those they serve. When Alice (Huppert), a disaffected call girl and Xavier (Lanners), a shrink with a crumbling marriage cross paths, they question the lives they lead.
Huppert is always a welcome presence on screen and while strong performances give the film weight, they cannot rescue the journey as the narrative dips in and out of credibility.
Alice seems to be in control of her life, engaging in role-playing as her individual private clients demand. One day she is dressed as a schoolgirl, complete with short skirt, lollypop and teddy bear; the next she is clad in black with S & M props for a client; and as a compliant 50s housewife, wearing red polka dot skirt, pearls and hair constrained in rollers. This is how she augments her collection of antiques. Next item on the list: a chandelier.
When Xavier sees Alice at the supermarket, he is instantly attracted. It's just like renting a car Xavier is told as a colleague gives him Alice's telephone number. But for Xavier, it is not quite as straightforward.
I like the scene in which Alice and Xavier meet in a hotel bar as if they were a normal couple having a drink together. When she puts her cards on the table giving him options, he is unable to deal with the situation.
As Xavier tries to work out his future, so does Alice, although neither attempt is satisfying. The antique statue of an angel which changes hands several times is supposedly symbolic of the shifting impetus, but it is little more than ornamental.
NSW: Palace Verona, 17 Oxford Street, Paddington
Cremorne Orpheum, 380 Military Road, Cremorne
VIC: Palace Brighton Bay Cinema, 294 Bay Street, Brighton
Palace Cinema Como, Cnr Toorak Rd & Chapel St, South Yarra
QLD: Palace Barracks Cinema, 61 Petrie Terrace, Brisbane
WA: Cinema Paradiso, 164 James Street, Northbridge
SA: Palace Nova Cinema, 251 Rundle Street, Adelaide
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SPECIAL TREATMENT (MA15+)
Sans queue ni tête
CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Bouli Lanners, Sabila Moussadek, Richard Debuisine, Valerie Dreville, Mathieu Carriere, Dider Bezace, Christoph Lambert
PRODUCER: Jani Thiltges
DIRECTOR: Jeanne Lebrune
SCRIPT: Jeanne Lebrune, Richard Debuisine
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Virgine Saint-Martin
EDITOR: Anja Ludcke
MUSIC: André Mergenthaler
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Set decorator: Régine Constant; Costumes: Claire Fraisse
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Melsa Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 7, 2011