A semi-biograpgical drama from a trio of French directors, Party Girl tells the story of aging nightclub hostess, Angelique. Once a beloved star on the cabaret stage, Angelique is now washed up and finds herself being made irrelevant by the younger dancers whom all the patrons seem to prefer. When a former customer with whom she had mutual attraction comes back into her life and proposes marriage, Angelique decides to give up the nightlife in favour of matrimony.
Angelique Litzenburger plays herself in this film and one of the directors and co-stars is her son, Samuel Theis. Sam and his three siblings all play themselves in the film, which follows Angelique’s struggles to give up her lifelong partying in favour of a settling down into a domestic life with a man who loves her, as she feels everyone thinks a woman of her age ought to do. A habitual drinker and partier, Angelique’s liveliness and contagious love for a good time is what initially attracts Michel to her, but it’s those exact things which he later tries to shame out of Angelique. He criticizes her drinking, smoking and desire to spend late nights out with her friends, basically insisting that she admit that she is “too old” to be acting that way. But Angelique rightfully refuses to budge and even after she is sexually harassed by a sleazy young guy at the cabaret and chewed out as being a has-been by her friends, she refuses to give in to their idea of what a woman should be at her age.
The problem of aging and women is something that is evident in almost all occupations, but especially those in which a woman relies as much on her looks as her skill to succeed. Hollywood actresses lament the unfairness of the lack of roles for women above a certain age, and Angelique is another warrior in the fight against the patriarchy which never fails to tell her that what she wants to do is wrong.
Angelique’s four children are her main source of unyielding support and while they rib their mother about her unconventional career (which actually lost her custody of her youngest daughter), they all happily reunite for their mother’s wedding and go out of their way to ensure that it is everything she deserves and then some. At the wedding, they publicly express their pride in being her children and seem to be the only people in her life who trust her to do what is right for herself.
Though her marriage to Michel is one of convenience for Angelique, as the film progresses, she soon realizes that it’s not worth giving up her own happiness just to help the rest of the world feel more comfortable about the sort of life she has chosen for herself. Angelique knows that the life of an old-aged party girl is one that comes with the possibility of being shamed a dozen different waya, but she’s lived long enough to know better than to sacrificing her own identity for anything or anyone else.
Sarah is covering the Cinéfranco International Film Festival, which runs from April 10 to 19 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. See more coverage here.