“Female Pervert” (my first screening of this years Viennale, since I skipped opening night) wasn’t quite what I expected. The short IMDB description makes it sound like writer-director Jiyoung Lee would turn typical gender roles on their head, and thus expose certain double standards of what kind of behavior is acceptable – and maybe even lauded – for men, but not for women. Instead, we get a female sociopath (in the Q&A after the movie, Jiyoung Lee freely admitted that the title “Female Pervert” was a little misleading, in order to gain more attention) who shows behavioral patterns that would be equally – if not even more so – condemned if coming from a man. Thus, this wasn’t quite the clever play with gender roles that I hoped for.
Nevertheless, it was quite amusing – albeit rather short and ultimately nothing special. There definitely were a couple of funny scenes, with the presentation of the marketing campaign a particular highlight. Their solution for the PR-problem of a certain company was just too funny – a typical case of how you can draw totally ridiculous findings from market research. It was absolutely hilarious, and I loved every second of it. However, watching Phoebe breaking one barrier of socially acceptable behavior after another also was quite funny, in a perverse kind of way. I also liked that we get a female sociopath for once. Plus, her misconduct is insofar excusable as it’s obvious that there’s no malice behind it. It’s not that she purposely breaks those rules, but rather that she’s not aware of them. In that regard, she seems very childlike (because children also don’t know any boundaries, as long as we don’t teach them what’s socially acceptable behavior, and what isn’t), and it’s definitely not a coincidence that from everyone in the movie, she seems to feel the most comfortable in the company of her bosses little son. The final noteworthy strength of the movie is Jennifer Kim (who I’ve seen before in “The Blacklist”), who gives a great performance as Phoebe, and manages to walk the fine line between being funny and the appalling. Nevertheless, her appearance is also a major drawback insofar as it only makes the rather amateurish performances of the rest of the cast all the more noticeable. I’m also not sure if it was the right choice to put Phoebe into a range of characters where she repeatedly seems like the sane one, because it didn’t really make her stand out that much (then again, propagating the message that we’re all Phoebe, in a way, might very well have been what Jiyoung Lee was going for here), but which ultimately lessened the movie’s – and Phoebe’s – appeal for me. It’s also a movie without a clear narrative and/or structure, purposelessly meandering from one scene to the next. It’s a stringing together of individual scenes which don’t really build up to anything, and which eventually lead nowhere. The ending as a whole was rather abrupt, and the movie altogether rather short, clocking in at slightly above 60 minutes. And as amusing and entertaining as it might have been occasionally, ultimately it seemed like a movie that didn’t really have anything (meaningful) to say, which made it feel rather pointless. However, if you’re just looking for a shallow and superficial comedy which is about an inappropriately behaving woman for a change (instead of the nth such male), “Female Pervert” should fit the bill just fine.