Cinderella would turn over in her grave if she ever saw Ugly Melanie, Jean-Patrick Benes’ and Allan Mauduit’s exaggerated caricature of the classic fairytale.
The French comedy originally titled Vilaine tells the story of desperately unattractive Melanie, who was so ugly when she was born that her mother tried to swap her for another baby. All her life, Melanie has been stepped on, ridiculed and used to do menial chores for her neighbours and relatives. She works as a waitress at a broken-down restaurant/gas station. She cleans her mom’s house and takes the neighbour’s obese dog out for a walk every day. Despite all this, Melanie’s hope and desire to find true love and Prince Charming do not falter.
That is, until the day she overhears her “friends” designing a scheme to ruin her potential first date. Melanie decides to take control, only to become what the movie calls “a fat and ugly sadist.” It is then that Cinderella’s fairytale reputation is spoiled.
Ugly Melanie stars newcomer Marilou Berry who was nominated for Most Promising Actress at the Cesar Awards for her portrayal of this Cinderella gone mad. Berry is the only good thing about this clichÃ©d and exaggerated redemption story. Her portrayal of the sweet Melanie who then becomes very mean and cocky shows the actress’ comic flair. With the exception of Pierre-FranÃ§ois Martin-Laval who plays Melanie’s obnoxious boss Martinez, the rest of the acting in the movie is painful to watch. FrÃ©dÃ©rique Bel, JosÃ©phine de Meaux, and Alice Pol play Melanie’s three “friends” &- an attempt to recreate roles that would mirror Cinderella’s evil stepsisters. Unfortunately, they are so exaggeratedly caricatured that their presence on the screen brings annoyance instead of humour.
The film’s jokes are racist and sexist and start off funny, but they quickly begin to make you squirm. Perhaps the writers’ goal was to modernize the traditional Cinderella story by trying to make a comedy out of it. As a result, the audience is made to love Melanie in the beginning and hate her when she decides to seek revenge. Unfortunately, this holds true for the movie as a whole. The film begins with good humour which then simply becomes bad writing. The audience is not made to see the presupposed moral of the story &- that like beauty, ugliness is only in the eye of the beholder and that it’s what’s inside that really matters. Ugly Melanie fails in making ugly beautiful. It only mocks it instead.
Ugly Melanie (Vilaine) is playing at the AMC with English subtitles.