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The New Girlfriend 

Wednesday, Sep 16 2015
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François Ozon's The New Girlfriend could have gone wrong in many ways, and though there is some clunkiness, it's a (mostly) thoughtful portrait of a transgender woman becoming herself. Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) and Laura (Isild Le Besco) were BFFs since childhood; when Laura dies after giving birth, Claire reaches out to her widowed husband (Romain Duris), whom she discovers dresses as female in private. Though initially put off, Claire names her Virginia and takes her into the outside world. The slur "tranny" gets tossed around a few times in the subtitled dialogue — though the more culturally appropriate "travesti" does appear on a computer screen — and while there are some stale cross-dressing jokes, there's never a sense that the movie is laughing at Virginia rather than with her, or that her existence is meant to be provocative or — for want of a better word— transgressive to straight, cis audiences. Most importantly, the camera loves the transgender Virginia as much as it did the cisgender Isabelle in Ozon's previousYoung & Beautiful, and featureswhat is by far the hottest sex scene of 2015 — at least, until it hits a wall that almost derails the film. Still, The New Girlfriendredeems itself by the end. Leave it to the French to get transgender representation (mostly) right.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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