Miss – Film Review

Dendy Cinema Canberra from 12 to 18 August 2021
107 minutes, Rated M

Directed by Ruben Alves
French with English subtitles

Ever since he was a child, Alex (Alexandre Wetter) wanted to enter the annual Miss France beauty pageant, and in pursuing his dream, does everything he can to transcend traditional binary definitions of gender.

Miss is the first major acting role for Wetter, who grew up in the south of France, studied fine art and moved to Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a model. His androgyny became a brand image, and he has made a career of defying gender norms.

I found Miss deeply affecting. Perhaps the most touching and telling moment is when the character Alex says words to the effect:  ‘I am not a woman, I am not a man. Nobody will ever love me.’ And yet what we see in his coterie of housemates and work associates is indeed love, a pure accepting and supportive friendship, one that never shirks from telling the truth.

First screened in Canberra as part of the 2021 Alliance Française French Film Festival, this film certainly  deserves a separate and discreet run. Alexandre Wetter’s performance is as stellar as his attainment in the Miss France competition.

He is ably supported by the actors portraying the colourful individuals in the house where he rooms – migrant workers, his seemingly hardboiled landlady who turns out to have a heart of gold, and Lola, an older sex worker friend.

Similarly the boxing gym where he works in a menial role throws up not only a friend from his youth who supports his quest, but also a rough-edged group of boxing types who cheer him on to victory and in the end applaud his bold revelation at the crowning ceremony.

The business of the beauty contest is also beautifully explored with its diverse characters, falling nicely into good and bad categories, from Amanda the sympathetic pageant organiser to the sleazy MC and the PR people. Alex’s fellow competitor and room-mate, Miss PACA, proves in the end to be a good friend after a tricky start, once again illustrating the themes of acceptance and respect.

All of this makes for heart-warming if often painful viewing. What Alex learns about himself and his adopted ‘family’ is a key message of the film about valuing one another and ourselves for what we are. 

The film, as the promos suggest, leads us to question what we believe we know about gender. It’s thought-provoking and educative in the best way. 

Whether I would classify it as comedy, however, is a moot point. Things are often said to be comedies when I find far more tragedy in them, and this is one such. It doesn’t mean the resolution can’t be happy, just that it’s not what I see as humorous theatrically, or in life.

Further information: https://www.dendy.com.au/movies/miss

Read more about Aleandre Wetter at https://www.vogue.pt/english-version-interview-alexandre-wetter-blue-issue