Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne))
France (2015) Dir. Eva Husson
If ever there were an aphorism not open to debate, it would be “Every generation thinks it invented sex”. French director Eva Husson explores this in her debut offering which, rather shockingly – but then again not so unsurprisingly – is based on real events of twenty years ago involving the sexual exploits of a group of affluent American teens.
Relocated to Biarritz in southwestern France, cocky teen Alex (Finnegan Oldfield) has his large house all to himself while his mother is away working, so he has best mate Nikita (Fred Hotier) stay over. They invite best friends George (Marilyn Lima) and Laetitia (Daisy Broom) one afternoon where Alex sleeps with George, somewhat promiscuous in her own right.
Afterwards George gets the silent treatment from Alex which bothers her. When Nikita suggests a big blow out party with their school friends, Alex sleeps Laetitia which upsets George so, by way of revenge, she initiates a kinky game of Spin The Bottle which ends up as a big orgy, some of which was filmed. From here on in regular Bang Gang parties are held but the fun is short lived.
She may have been across the Atlantic ocean when she read about the shocking revelations of the US teens but Eva Husson claims she felt some understanding of the kids, not necessarily the debauchery of their sexual exploits but as someone of the same age who could have gone down that route but didn’t.
Husson wondered why this was despite the similarities in circumstances, which set her on a path to developing this screenplay. It is this personal curiosity that prevents the film from moralising about the characters’ actions. Husson chooses to present them with any real pretence – unless you count the explicit sexual imagery as pretence – and relates a tale of arrogance and hubris some will identify with.
Perhaps a by-product of this non-judgemental approach and the environment from which they came, hardly anyone featured here is particularly likeable, making the ultimate downfall they experience difficult to sympathise with. The arrogance comes with the age-old teenage belief of indestructibility and ignorance of the consequences, emotionally and physically.
If this had been a Hollywood film the entire cast would be glamorous fitness models, but this is a French film so they are distinctly average looking bunch. Like Hollywood however the actors are (obviously) not sixteen, stretching the credibility a little but this is one concession we are obliged to make from the onset otherwise there is no film.
Whether typical or not, these teens are all veterans of cigarettes and alcohol, and later pills and powder, while many are already sexually active with many miles on the clock. George is one of these girls but she thinks Alex may be the special one, and while her bedpost has a few notches, she is perturbed to learn Alex can claim “over 15” partners.
It is Alex’s choice of no 16 being her best friend about to send George over the edge and after indulging too much of the toxic delicacies on offer at one of the Bang Gangs, she becomes “Miss Warmth and Joy” and racks up a few more partners. Unfortunately she is unaware of being filmed and the clip ends up on YouTube (suspension of disbelief klaxon going off) propelling George into public infamy.
Amidst this communal prurient decadence we find Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefebvre), a shy loner and aspiring musician who has to help with his invalid father around the home. To let off steam Gabriel attends “Beat Parties” which basically is where people just freak out to heavy techno music.
Gabriel lives opposite George and of course has a crush on her but she ignores him until the falling out with Alex and Laetitia, and after talking to him finds he is a decent guy. George invites Gabriel to Alex’s latest Bang Gang and pops his cherry to Miss Warmth and Joy, being the only one of her conquest that night she enjoys. But the ensuing video becomes the least of their worries when George starts to get an itch.
The importance of Gabriel’s character is not to serve as totem for the excluded who gets to say “I told you so” at the end of the film (that’s what the parent’s are for) but to remind us that anyone can easily get caught up in such troublesome situations, even if it is a one shot deal. He could have stuck to his Beat Parties but this wasn’t about letting off steam, the rewards were much different here.
Being told though narrators of both sexes, Husson doesn’t champion the females yet a feminist streak appears during the fallout where George takes the humiliation on the chin. She endures catcalls from other girls but there is no prolonged slut shaming or demonising of her; instead everyone suffers because of the “free love” being shared around and everyone is complicit.
If the title is unsubtle and the plot sounds titillating, be warned that this is in fact an incisive cautionary tale of teenage ignorance and confused aspirations. In fact, the whole film could be summed up in one scene where a girl has to Google “syphilis”, only to be told not to worry as AIDS doesn’t kill people anymore.
For Husson this is a brave debut, perhaps a little by the numbers in its presentation and narrative but there is substance beneath the bonking, evolving into a quietly compelling drama. Showing equal moxie are the cast who gives themselves wholesale to their role but it is newcomer Marilyn Lima (apparently discovered on Instagram) as George who makes an engaging first impression in such a demanding and adventurous role.
A competent and assured debut, the lack of moral indignation gives Bang Gang an edge as an appalling indictment of teenage promiscuity, but the lack of a singular sympathetic character is likely to reduce the chances of a deeper resonance with some audiences.