Blog Du Jour

Danny Peary Talks to ‘Slut in a Good Way’ Director Sophie Lorain

This French-Canadian satire is by no means a lurid X-rated potboiler.

Undoubtedly, the movie title that caught every curious person’s attention at the recent Tribeca Film Festival was Slut in a Good Way. If you told anyone you’d seen this French-Canadian satire, you’d feel the need to quickly explain that it is by no means a lurid X-rated potboiler.

But as you defensively stated the plot—while working at Toy Depot over the holidays, teenage friends Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard), anti-love anarchist Mégane (Romane Denis) and virgin Aube (Rose Adam) respond the advances of their boy co-workers in various ways, with Charlotte having sex with several of them—you suddenly realized, uh oh, that Sophie Lorain’s black-and-white movie (scripted by Catherine Léger) is just as daring as its title and unapologetically hurdles many of the cinema’s long-standing sexual barriers. That’s a good thing.

Watch a clip:

During the festival, I spoke to the personable Lorain about her brave, spirited film.

"Slut in a Good Way" director Sophie Lorain
“Slut in a Good Way” director Sophie Lorain, Photo: Danny Peary

Danny Peary: Were you named after Sophia Loren?

Sophie Lorain: No. But when I was about sixteen and started in this business, I was a driver-gofer, and one of the first films that I worked on was with Sophia Loren. And, amazingly, she saw my name on the call sheet, and saw the spelling of my name. So she asked me to meet me, and we met and talked.

DP: Wow.

SL: Yes, wow. I worked on [Angela, 1978] for about two months. And what was amazing is that Sophia Loren was starring in it with John Huston, and I was so young at the time, I didn’t know either of them. I was John Huston’s driver and would drive him to his hotel in Montreal every night after the shoot. And he would wanted to chat, and would ask me, “What do you want to do in life? Do you want to be a driver all your life?” And I would say, “Well, I’d like to be an actor and maybe one day direct.” And he asked, “Why don’t you?” I said, “Well, maybe one day I will.” And there we go. I didn’t know why he wanted to talk.

DP: Because he was a talker.

SL: But I didn’t know that at that point. I was just too young and didn’t have that culture. It took me several years to see one of his films on television. I said, “I know this guy!” I was so impressed.

DP: So these many years later, you are directing your second feature, nine years after Les Grandes Chaleurs [Heat Wave]. While watching it I said, This is a really unusual movie.” It had a different title originally. Was it Charlotte a du Fun?

SL: The original title was not even Charlotte Is Having Fun. It was Love for Christmas. I wanted it to be called A Slut in a Good Way, but in French. My distributors didn’t want anything to do with that title, so I pointed out, “It’s not exactly a title that I’m inventing or creating. It actually is a line from the film, which I’m putting up front because that’s what the film is all about. It’s about sexuality. And it’s a healthy way of going about it. Because there’s this connotation that it’s dirty if it is about young women’s sexuality; it’s like young women don’t have the right to have their own sexuality. So we have to go for something like that.” For a month there was a hell of a battle about the title. I had to settle for less.

DP: But your title is still a grabber!

SL: Yes, it is a grabber!

DP: At the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, I met Costa Rican director Paz Fábrega, whose lead character in Viaje is older than your three lead characters but is very promiscuous. Paz wanted to get across that being promiscuous is nothing a female should be ashamed of or condemned for. Her positive portrayal of sexually active women in her films is controversial because there has always been the connotation that such women are sluts—in a bad way.

"Slut in a Good Way" L-R: Charlotte, Mégane and Aube
L-R: Charlotte, Mégane and Aube, Photo: Amérique Film

SL: Particularly young women. We see hundreds of films about male adolescents and young men having an active sexual life, and it doesn’t matter how many encounters they’re having and how many people they’re sleeping with. But a coming-of-age movie about females—played by real 16- and 17-year-olds—who have sexual urges and are claiming their own sexuality, is not permitted.

Unfortunately, young women exist only through the eye of someone looking at them. They have to be cute, they have to be nice, and they have to wait in silence while others look at them and judge them. They have to be attractive in that fashion to receive social acceptance.

DP: What’s most interesting about your movie is that while the girls judge each other you the filmmaker refuse to judge their behavior.

SL: Women do that all the time, and whether they’re 16 or 56 doesn’t matter. They’re the first ones to come up with the “My-God!” guilt, shame and judgment. That’s what the interesting part of Catherine Léger’s writing is all about. You’d expect the judgment to come from guys or girls or friends of whatever, but the leading female, in this case Catherine, is the first to put herself to shame although it’s normal at seventeen to have some sexual urges and to have some desires.

DP: Do you think your film is anti those male-teenage movies where guys try to have sexual conquests—although your teenage boys are just like that for much of your film?

SL: I wouldn’t say anti. The young guys in this movie are fine with the situation at the store because they can do whatever they want and it’s okay. But for Charlotte it’s different. She has to go out and accept her own sexuality. What’s important to say is that she wants to be with someone, she wants to be in love. She’s 17 and wants to have a real boyfriend.

Little did she know that her boyfriend at the beginning of the movie is a homosexual. So she’s never encountered love or passion or sexuality in its real form. So the minute she encounters that in her sexual encounters with boys at the store, she’s overwhelmed by it because she doesn’t know the difference between passion, love, and friendship. She’s mixed up in all of that and she’s has to find her way through that. Meanwhile, for the guys in the movie, it’s business as usual.

Charlotte befriends respectful Guillaume "Slut in a Good Way"
Charlotte befriends respectful Guillaume, Photo: Amérique Film

DP: Do the guys change for the better because they’ve made all their conquests and there are no longer conquests to be made?

SL: Well, I don’t think they don’t change that much. Their lives are the same.

DP: But doesn’t Aube’s crush Olivier change? He definitely appreciates her more by the end..

SL: Well, he changes in some ways. Yes, it’s true. He changes but doesn’t realize it. He’s the nerd of the guys in the store. He reads and isn’t into girls. He doesn’t know that Aube has a crush on him. The main reason he goes after her is to break the sex strike by the girls in the store. He thinks he has to prove something to the other guys and show solidarity.

His way of thinking changes and he realizes there is more to this girl than just someone to be seduced. She reads, too, and they have so many things in common. He opens his eyes to her and opens up and falls in love with her. He’s not like Francis who is just after every girl.

DP: It takes a while to notice, but there are no parents or even adults on screen. Are your young characters living in an alternative universe?

SL: You’re absolutely right. The script was written with parents and adults, although there weren’t many. But then I said to Catherine, “Let’s get rid of them.” Later on she said to me, “I’m so happy that you said that because it gives me freedom to write whatever I want to write and not have parents making judgments about their daughters and Catherine’s parents solving or helping with the problems she is having.

It cleans the air and gives the girls all the responsibilities. Charlotte has the tools to find out what she wants and what she doesn’t want out of life, and to ask her own questions and find her own answers. That’s what I thought we had to do, so we got rid of all adults in the film.

DP: What role does the girl who becomes pregnant and gives birth have in the movie? She’s the one adult in the movie!

SL: Léa is the adult but she’s 20 years old! That character represents another side of the situation. If you become pregnant at 18 or 19 years old, you have the impression that your life is over because that’s what everybody tells you. But this kid is saying, “You don’t know the end of things, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I thought my life was over but it’s not the end of the world. Accept the situation.”

DP: I find it interesting that Charlotte visits her after she gives birth.

SL: Catherine and I spoke about that. I said, “You know, after Léa leaves the store, we forget about her. Charlotte needs to be redeemed at some point. She needs to find her own solutions. But I don’t want her to go to her mother or father. I just want her to ask questions, and not get necessarily the right answers, but to have some answers, something to hang on to.

And what Léa tells her very basically is that she has to find out the difference between love and passion—and it doesn’t mean that because she slept with a lot of guys that her life is over. Life and love is more complicated than that.

DP: Teenage girls in movies don’t usually talk to each other about sex in the way Charlotte, Aube, and Mégane do in your film. It’s the dominant subject. Is that realistic to you?

SL: Yeah, I think that girls nowadays do that, surprisingly. It would be shocking for you and me, coming from other generations, but these girls are very much into that. Charlotte is going out with a homosexual, Mégane has had a bit more sexual experience and Aube has had none at all. So they represent their generation by talking about sex all the time and what they’re experiencing. And mostly they talk and talk and talk and talk and that’s what it’s all about—talking.

DP: Your three leads are terrific. Did you audition them together?

SL: I auditioned them one by one. I’d worked with them in different situations, because I also direct a lot for television. I cast Marguerite Bouchard as a thirteen year old when she was only eleven, and Romane as well. Rose I cast for the first time when she was six. For this film, I auditioned everyone by themselves. Then I started making trios to see how they would get along with two other girls.

That was really worrisome because while some girls were extremely good in their solo auditions, once I paired them with two other girls, it fell apart. One day I was having a lot of auditions. At one point, while I was directing a trio in front of me, I could hear the next trio of girls in the waiting room laughing their heads off and having a lot of fun. I was wondering what was going on.

When I finished with the first trio, in came my next trio and it was Marguerite, Romane, and Rose. I said, “Oh, my God, I just hope this is gonna work,” because the energy was there, the feel was there. We called “Action!” and it was all still there. They stood out so I cast them.

DP: Your three leads seem so comfortable together, as if they’ve been friends for years. It starts in the first scene when they’re in a store and are playing around with sex toys.

SL: That’s what I wanted. I said to Catherine, “You know that everything about their friendship has to be settled right there in the first scene.” At that age, all you do all the time as a girl is watch yourself in the mirror. And that’s why they’re looking right through the lens, and that’s a concept that’s going to follow through all the way through the movie.

These girls are watching themselves and I wanted them to have fun and of course with the accessories that we had in this store, we could play with them. I told Rose Adam, ‘Okay, put on a hat and find something else in the store that will surprise the other girls.” And she did. They got along fine in real life, but that just put it in their minds that I wanted the film to be shocking from the first image.

Shocking, but in an amusing rather than a vulgar way. I wanted to bond the girls together and to make sure that friendship was the main thing that would come out.

The girls go on a sex strike in "Slut in a Good Way"
The girls go on a sex strike, Photo: Amérique Film

DP: When you made the movie, your leads were 16 and 17, quite young. Did you have to explain anything to them?

SL: Some of the stuff, yeah. But they went for it because it was important to them. They could see the comedy and the lightness of it but at the same time, they were proud to have the right to speak out, and to be in a story about young girls and sexuality instead of about guys. They were happy about that.

DP: I bet they could relate to their characters. To them they were real girls.

SL: Totally. They didn’t ask to change anything. I think there was one word of dialogue that we changed in the whole script. It was really close to them.

DP: The Bollywood ending—was that planned or did you say, “Let’s do this!”?

SL: No, it wasn’t planned at all. The film didn’t end that way, there was another ending. And at one point, we started rehearsing the ending, and the director of photography and I just looked at each other and said that this is not working. We had to work our way around it.

Three or four days earlier, I said to the kids, “Listen, we have the rights to this Bollywood thing.” I had them do it early in the film, when the guys are dancing together in front of the screen. I said, “I want you guys to look at that and learn the steps. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but I might ask you to do that at one point.” So they all looked at it. The very last day when we shot that original ending and it wasn’t working out, I said to my DP, “Let’s go for the Bollywood.”

He said, “I think you’re right.” I said to the kids, “Okay, we’re doing the Bollywood,” and they just looked at me and said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yeah, it’s gonna work out. I’m sure it’s going to work out better than what we have.” So that’s how we went about it.

Charlotte and Francis "Slut in a Good Way"
Charlotte and Francis, Photo: Amérique Film

DP: How does it feel to be at the Tribeca Film Festival?

SL: Great. I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be here. Very frankly, to have so many people not believing in this film and then having it recognized here and to be seated with you asking me questions about it, is an honor.

***I hope everyone will pick up a copy of my new book with Hana Ali about the origins of her father’s most famous quotes: Ali on Ali: Why He Said What He Said When He Said It. (Workman Publishing)

Danny Peary has published 25 books on film and sports, including Cult Movies and Jackie Robinson in Quotes.

READ MORE ‘DANNY PEARY TALKS TO’ INTERVIEWS

Facebook Comments

Show More

Related Articles