Manic pixie dream girl Anais careens carelessly into everyone’s life searching for herself and passion and love. Because she is young, and thin, and white, and pretty, everyone finds this adorably charming, and she faces no consequences and is never held accountable for her impact on others.
I know it’s a tradition to romanticise carefree young women in summer dresses for their light-hearted and uncomplicated ways. So let me just make this plain, this is not a complaint about Anais trying to find herself, or shagging about, or wanting to stay single and child-free with her options open. This is about Anais being The Worst.
She literally gives not one fuck about anyone else in this movie. The closest we come is when she finds out her mum’s cancer has come back and is sad. This lasts all of a scene, and even though the doctor tells her her mother is scared and will need her by her side when she goes through the chemo, Anais quickly boosts out of there, on to stalking her next shag. Later, she writes her mother a draft of a letter saying she thinks if her mother was really passionate about something in life, then her cancer wouldn’t have come back, or maybe if she loved her husband more. The Absolute Fucking Worst.
Her brother Balthazar feeds Xanax to their pal’s pet lemur and it overdoses, and she stands over it as he tries to figure out how to stop it from dying and is like, “Do you think I know how to love?” Another belter is when she tells her thesis supervisor she’ll organise an academic symposium with him, then ditches that to pursue the latest object of her obsession, and when he calls literally the day before it starts to say, ‘where the fuck are you? You have all the documents for the presentations’, she’s like, ‘Aw, family emergency, my mum has cancer’, then phones her cancer-ridden mother to back up her lie, while she swans about on a beach. It begs the question, what exactly does someone young, thin, white, and pretty have to do to be considered an insufferable cunt?
All that doesn’t even touch on the core plot. She leaves her current boyfriend, who tells her he loves her, because he’s upset that she is never on time to see him, acts like he is an afterthought, and casually drops into conversation that she’s having an abortion. Having the abortion is not the problem, it’s the mentioning it in passing while deciding where to go now you’re too late for the pictures. His hurt is such a downer, so she starts shagging her father’s publisher, a man her father’s age who is in a long term relationship. When she shows up on his doorstep with all her stuff looking to move in on, like, their third date or whatever, and he doesn’t handle in exactly the way she hoped, she ditches him and contemplates going back to the first guy. Then she reads the publisher’s partner’s books and become obsessed with her. Seeing in her writing a kindred soul, she pursues and seduces her.
“I think the same way she does. We share a vision, personality, tastes,” she says before she’s even met the woman. “He [the publisher] picked the same woman 20 years younger.” It’s not so much Emilie, the publisher’s wife, that Anais falls in love with, but herself that she sees in the other woman. Emilie astutely catches just that. “What you feel for me, sorry, isn’t love, it’s an illusion. Of course it is. You projected a lot onto me.” Right on the money, Emilie.
Anais isn’t charming, she’s a narcissist. And the total lack of consequences for her perpetual self-centredness is frustrating and depressing.
It’s hard to comment on the film as separate from the character of Anais, as she is the film’s entire focus. The movie literally is about Anais In Love, just in love with herself. Even with the strong performances and the film’s technical accomplishments, it’s difficult to frame its merits and demerits independent from its central point.
P.S. Anais also doesn’t pay her rent, so sublets to a Korean couple for Airbnb, tells them the gas cooker’s dangerous, but doesn’t tell them she smashed up the fire alarm, or replace it, and they almost die in a fire while cooking a meal, and nearly burn down the landlord’s apartment. Just The Worst.