Water Lilies
Céline Sciamma, 2007

So there are basically four characters in this movie: Scrawny Girl, Fat Girl, Hot Girl, and Dude. Scrawny Girl and Fat Girl are friends. Fat Girl and Hot Girl are both swimmers. Scrawny Girl goes to watch Fat Girl swim, and finds herself very taken with Hot Girl. Scrawny Girl asks Hot Girl to let her watch the advanced swim practice in exchange for the favor of her choice. Hot Girl says okay and lets her in under the pretext that they're cousins. In exchange, Hot Girl has Scrawny Girl come ring her doorbell so she has an excuse to go out, whereupon she makes out with Dude in some sort of parking garage or something.

I should mention at this point that I read some reviews before and after watching this movie that said that it's about teenage cruelty and that Hot Girl is really mean to Scrawny Girl. Apparently making Scrawny Girl hang around outside while she makes out with Dude is one of the mean things she does. But it was Scrawny Girl's idea to offer her a favor in the first place! And then Hot Girl takes Scrawny Girl to a tournament and gives her the medal that she wins! And then when Scrawny Girl objects to waiting outside the parking garage again, Hot Girl leaves Dude in order to spend the afternoon hanging out with Scrawny Girl! Not really seeing the meanness here.

Hot Girl starts hanging out with Scrawny Girl on a regular basis. She confides to Scrawny Girl that, despite her reputation as a slut, she is actually a virgin, but doesn't want Dude to know that when they have sex, which seems imminent. Hot Girl and Scrawny Girl go to a club where Hot Girl decides to have a random guy deflower her; Scrawny Girl, in a fit of pique, interrupts them, at which point Hot Girl... hugs Scrawny Girl and thanks her for saving her from making a big mistake. Still not seeing the meanness.

Hot Girl decides that she wants Scrawny Girl to be the one to take her virginity. At first Scrawny Girl refuses, but soon she changes her mind and agrees. One commenter called the resulting scene "really rather sadistic, since it's largely a mindfuck on the part of the hot chick." And yet Hot Girl is the one with tears trickling down her face and offering up her most valuable treasure. With sadism like that, who needs masochists?

Meanwhile, Fat Girl and Scrawny Girl have stopped hanging out, because Fat Girl is quite childish and Scrawny Girl eventually tells her so. Fat Girl has also had a thing for Dude this entire time, expressed via various awkward gestures. Dude shows up at her door saying that Hot Girl wouldn't do it with him after all and asking whether Fat Girl would like to. Fat Girl and Dude have sex, but then Fat Girl is confused and talks about it with Scrawny Girl. They go to a party.

At the party, Dude tries to have sex with Fat Girl again, but she spits at him. Scrawny Girl sees Hot Girl, who hugs her, but then talks to a boy. Scrawny Girl asks Hot Girl to follow her into the bathroom, but lacks the nerve to make the pass she's been planning until Hot Girl encourages her to come over and receive the kiss she clearly wants. And it's a nice kiss — Hot Girl puts a lot into it! But then she goes back out to the party to reconnect with the boy she was talking to... which is apparently supposed to be the most unkindest cut in a long series of them. The movie ends with Scrawny Girl and Fat Girl floating in the pool, having reconnected over their shared torment.

And meanwhile I was still wondering when the much-vaunted cruelty was supposed to start. I mean, gee, would that some of my crushes had been so sadistic as to let me get to third base... but I guess that, in saying that, I'm forgetting what teenage crushes were really like and substituting in the in-my-30s version, "vague sexual interest." Still, I find it difficult to fault the ostensible antagonist of the piece. Scrawny Girl wants love from Hot Girl and doesn't get it, but there's no villainy in failing to return a crush. I guess the idea is that Hot Girl is taking advantage of said crush, but I dunno. I mean, Hot Girl never misrepresents herself to Scrawny Girl: she is always clear about the fact that hooking up with Dude is her ultimate object, and while they don't constitute love, the emotional and physical intimacies she shares with Scrawny Girl seem genuine enough. There's never a "ha ha, I was just playing you" moment — even at the end, Hot Girl wants to continue their friendship. And maybe it isn't the world's most balanced friendship, but I was pretty surprised throughout that Hot Girl was willing to associate with Scrawny Girl at all.

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