As a little boy, Alex dreams of one day becoming Miss France. Derailed by a tragedy in adolescence, he finds himself in his early 20s, struggling with mental health issues, working a drudge job in a boxing gym, and living in a boarding house with a group of eccentric misfits. A chance encounter with one of his old school-friends, who fulfilled his childhood dream despite the odds, gives Alex the courage to finally make a push to realise his own.
Miss is a break-out role for model and actor Alexandre Wetter, who stars as Alex. They have given us an Alex who is authentic, relatable, and a hero for our times. Supporting Alex on his journey is his adopted family in the boarding house. Isabelle Nanty is superb as Yolande, the house-mother, and Thibault de Montalembert is both hilarious and moving as Lola, the ageing transsexual sex worker. Amongst the cast, a surprise cameo by Amanda Lear is a delightful nod of respect to the transsexual pioneers.
Director and co-writer Ruben Alves has put together a film of enormous heart and intelligence. A gentle exploration of issues of gender, female disempowerment, ageism, racism and class, it allows those themes to float in and around what is fundamentally a classic Cinderella story. Although billed as a comedy, Miss is substantially a drama, with moments of comedic charm. And although it has moments of true pathos, it never falls into cliched sentimentality.
Alves has made a quiet winner.
This delightful film was one of the hits of the Alliance Française French Film Festival and now has a theatrical release in Australia.
Miss screens at Wallis Mitcham from August 12th.