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Agathe Riedinger Diamant Brut Movie Review

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Diamant Brut (Wild Diamond) | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

Diamant Brut (Wild Diamond) | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

Teenage Wasteland: Riedinger’s Debut a Familiar Coming-of-Age Parade

All that glitters isn’t gold, but social media success can break the mould. At least that’s the hopeful nugget bestowed upon the wayward heroine of Agathe Riedinger’s debut, Wild Diamond (Diamant Brut). In the well grooved tradition of coming-of-age cinema (especially French cinema), Riedinger certainly isn’t taking any big risks in her tale of a troubled teen obsessed with social media and reality television as a means of escape from the sordid conditions of a down-and-out home life. And yet, there’s certainly a historical value in comparing the softly evolving transitions of what life is like for teenage girls reared in a contradictory world where their worth is dictated by their desirability, while it’s expected they do not act upon the satisfaction of their own desires. While it’s a rather slow build into the psychological insight of this specific emotionally tarnished nineteen-year-old, Riedinger wrings quite an impressive performance from newcomer Malou Khebizi in this character study template.

Liane (Khebizi) is a nineteen-year-old aspirational social media influencer who has an extremely strained relationship with her single mother, who seems more interested in whoever she’s currently dating than her daughters. Having already modified her body with breast implants, her style is exaggerated femininity, donning tight outfits which accentuate her body, while she puts in her own tracks and paints her face like she’s on her way to a shift at Sephora. Her contentious existence takes a swift turn when she receives a call from a casting agent on a reality television show called Miracle Island, the latest season of which will film in Miami. The audition seems to be a success, and Liane becomes something of a local celebrity in the neighborhood. As days turn into weeks without a call back, it seems as if all might be lost since her tenuous home life seems as if it’s about to crumble. A figure from her past, the lovestruck Dino (Idir Azougli) tries hard to offer her solace, but Liane has long ago decided she can only depend upon herself.

Agathe Riedinger Diamant Brut Review

“I’d sell my soul for beauty,” remarks one of Liane’s posse as they giddily scramble to assist her with an expensive dress she’ll presumably need should she be selected by the producers of Miracle Island (a title which might as well describe Liane’s own dreams in an environment which is otherwise destined to expeditiously degrade her). It’s one of many telling observations uttered by the adolescents in this milieu who are preoccupied with the superficial—-like generations of teenagers before them. But there’s a savviness to Liane’s endeavors, something which has kept her from surviving some of the more obvious pratfalls of her peers, a tenacity born from her mother having abandoned her to the social welfare system several years prior. This experience has caused an irreparable rift between mother and daughter, who can barely cohabitate without a blaring turbulence any time they speak to one another. What’s worse, a similar fate may be in store for her younger sister since their mother hasn’t paid rent for the past four months and eviction seems nigh.

Without being aware of it, Liane has stumbled upon a philosophy she could have very well gleaned from Nietzsche, wisely divulging “those who are desired have the power.” In essence, she’s cut from the same cloth as Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face (1933), whose mentor tells her she must ‘use men’ to get what she wants out of life. But Liane’s business plan is a dubious one, and she has all her hopes tangled into the possibility of being cast on this reality television show, with a casting agent who uses verbiage suggesting it’s something of a crass shitshow where women are expected to be sexually provocative but not troublesome all for the sake of some good ole fashioned disposable entertainment.

A sort of salvation appears in the form of Dino, with whom she’d spent time in the foster care system and who seems to be her offering a love that could be described as unconditional, at least based on her treatment of him. His presence is about the only hopeful distraction as her desperation for a call back turns to anguish since she cannot envision any other way out of the life she’s living.

In many ways, Wild Diamond recalls Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk (1985), based on a Joyce Carol Oates story in which a teen Laura Dern rebels against a mother played by Mary Kay Place, and a sinister gentleman caller played by Treat Williams represents both ruination and salvation. But in Liane’s world, the gentleman caller has been replaced by social media. Slowly, our need to see Liane succeed grows as we become emotionally invested in her success, simply because her volatile relationship with her mother (and frenemies) otherwise portends a certain sense of doom. Reidinger arguably goes for the route of wish fulfillment, like the titular heroine of Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, ultimately delivering a somewhat safe, but pleasant debut.

Reviewed on May 15th at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival – Competition. 103 Mins

★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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