“I need three cups of coffee before I can talk to you.”
L’Effrontee is a charming, refreshing film from director Claude Miller which focuses on a thirteen-year-old girl named Charlotte (played by 13 year old Charlotte Gainsborg). It’s summer, school is out, and Charlotte seems lost. She lives with her widower father and an elder brother. Charlotte’s brother is lucky enough to be going away with a group of friends for the summer. Meanwhile that leaves Charlotte at home and feeling sorry for herself.
Charlotte is an awkward, dangerous age. She’s gawky and unattractive, and even though housekeeper Leone (Bernadette Lafont) tells her not to worry and that life will happen soon enough, it’s not happening fast enough for Charlotte. She spends her evenings looking across the street at the teen hangout. Charlotte’s father has no idea of how to cope with her, and most of their interactions are fraught with frustration. For company and friendship, Charlotte is an unpaid babysitter for Lulu (Julie Glenn), a small girl whose ill health necessitates a great of medical attention.
On the last day of school, Charlotte sees a video of a child prodigy, diminutive pianist Clara Baumann (Clothilde Baudon). Blonde, delicate Clara looks like the perfect princess that Charlotte longs to be, and when Charlotte learns that Clara is going to be staying in a local mansion, she’s determined to meet her idol.
Charlotte also meets and befriends a creepy sailor Sam (Jean Philippe Ecoffey)—twice her age—who has nasty designs on this 13 year old.
Charlotte doesn’t really know who she is yet, and at her awkward age, she’s no longer a child, but not yet a woman. She knows that she doesn’t look like the perfectly-featured Clara, but she longs to look like that, and thus she choose the sort of frilly dresses that Clara would wear for a concert—imagining that the clothes will somehow convert her into a Clara-look-alike. There’s one scene when she puts on Clara’s concert dress and manages to look like a cheap box of chocolates wrapped in red frilly ribbon, but Leone manages to reach out and help Charlotte.
Charlotte is unaware that the choices she is about to make are shaping her adult character. She can either continue being unhappy with herself or she can accept herself for who and what she is. If the film sounds like some sort of sticky, syrupy nonsense, it isn’t. With its themes of identity and loneliness, should appeal to all ages. This was Charlotte Gainsbourg’s third film role, and as a fan of this excellent actress, it is wonderful to see her in this early role. And besides that, she steals the film.