The French actor Romain Duris has two major assets playing a closet cross-dresser in ‘The New Girlfriend’: a performance of such loveliness it might just make your heart burst and legs Posh would trade in Becks for.
Duris plays young dad David, whose wife dies, leaving him to raise their baby daughter. Not long after her death, his wife’s best friend Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) barges in on him dressed in a pretty floral number. Repulsed, Claire calls him a pervert, but slowly comes round to the idea of David as ‘Virginia’, even waxing his lower back. Virginia is their little secret, but with all the skulking, Claire’s husband suspects she’s having an affair. Is she falling in love with David? Or Virginia?
Directed by François Ozon, the film is loosely based on a 15-page story by Ruth Rendell and has a delicious chill of suspense running through it (I was half-expecting one of the characters to wind up with an axe in the back). What makes ‘The New Girlfriend’ special is that is has something to say about sexuality (feminine, masculine, gay, straight, and everything in between – it’s complicated). Traditionally, movies have played cross-dressing for laughs (think about Robin Williams in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’). Virginia, intensely vulnerable but full of self-confidence, is one-of-a-kind.