DVD Review: Special Treatment

Special Treatment DVDSTUDIO: First Run | DIRECTOR: Jeanne Labrune | CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Bouli Lanners, Sabila Moussadek, Richard Debuisne
1/17/2012 | PRICE: DVD $27.95
BONUSES: Q&A with director
SPECS: NR | 95 min. | Foreign language drama | widescreen | stereo | English with French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Truly qualifying as fearless, Isabelle Huppert (Merci Pour le Chocolat) seems to seek out difficult characters to play. While her American counterparts play women who are either lovable or at least mildly relatable, Huppert often explores the “darker side” in her work, meaning she has created quite a varied and unique portrait/gallery of troubled women in the last three decades.

She frequently is the most interesting thing in the movies she stars in, and such is the case with 2010’s Special Treatment. The film’s plot — which counterpoints the lives of a hooker (Huppert) and a psychoanalyst (Bouli Lanners, Mammuth), who are both becoming heavily disillusioned with their lines of work — is never less than transparent. This is especially true at the beginning, where we learn that in both professions, the practitioners take on high-paying customers merely to pay for certain pieces of furniture.

Special Treatment movie scene

Isabelle Huppert puts herself together in Special Treatment.

The film continues on with comparisons between the two professions, and then the proceedings kick into higher gear at the midway point when the two protagonists finally meet. By this time, most viewers, and not just libidinous males, will have decided that Huppert’s kinky profession is far more interesting than Lanner’s rather perfunctory psychology practice and his slow, staid meltdown.

Filmmaker Jeanne Labrune (Cause toujours!) follows the narrative through to a sudden conclusion and complicates matters in the third act by introducing another psychotherapist (co-scripter Richard Debuisne) who is more grounded and content with his vocation. Perhaps intended as a counterbalance to Huppert’s mellow hooker friend (Sabila Moussadek), the grounded psychotherapist takes the film into an even more mundane space.

Special Treatment hints at a world of carnality that it never shows. At age 58, Huppert looks terrific in the fetish costumes she wears for a few minutes each. But Labrune wants to reaffirm that we are watching a character study and not a sex movie, and thus the only sexually explicit scene is a brief one where Lanners’ character attends a debauched invitation-only orgy and then flees it suddenly, running through the woods.

Special Treatment is worth a viewing, but primarily for fans of Huppert, who continues to dazzle as she breathes life into underwritten characters and takes no short cuts whatsoever in her acting. Labrune spotlights this aspect of Huppert’s immense talent in randomly spaced sequences where we watch Huppert merely staring into space as her character ruminates over her sordid and dangerous profession.

The DVD’s bonus Q&A with director Labrune was unavailable at press time.


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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”