Despite holding a part-time job, college freshman Laura (the stunning Deborah Francois of The Page Turner) is unable to make ends meet. Having run out of options and desperate for cash, she answers an Internet ad: Joe, 57, seeks female student for tender moments. One hundred euros an hour. Just this once, she promises herself. Three days later, Laura is in a hotel room with Joe, and the downward spiral begins. By her second customer, however, Laura already wants to stop. Will she be able to? According to one student association, there are 40,000 young women in France who work as occasional prostitutes, including the anonymous author of the notorious memoir on which this film is based. From uncompromising writer-director Emmanuelle Bercot (Clement), STUDENT SERVICES is as compelling as it is shocking.
This is a well-made, interesting film about a young female university student who's dire financial situation leads her into prostitution. It's a French film, with English subtitles. The acting is superb, and the director succeeds in capturing a sense of the harm and anguish suffered by the young woman. There are a few scenes of full nudity, as well as some of sexual activity (although the sex scenes are certainly not hardcore). This movie clearly isn't intended to excite or titillate; rather, it's a comment on how modern society forces some people to debase themselves so that they can simply 'get by'.
18 year old Laura (played by Déborah François) hasn't enough money for food or rent. She's literally passing out because of not having enough to eat ... and her electricity gets cut off because she can't pay the bill. It's in this context that, desperately searching for work, she spots an online add - from a man, Joe, aged 57, who's seeking "tender moments". Very nervously, Laura goes through with this - and is pleased to earn some cash. On the second occasion, with a different client, she's raped. As her journey into prostitution continues, at no point does she enjoy the sex or like the clients. Rather, it's all a means to and end: to be able to pay for things and complete her university education.
The whole ordeal takes a toll on Laura, and she finds it impossible to engage in a 'normal' relationship with a boyfriend. As such, she becomes increasingly detached from the world. All the while, she's ashamed of what she does - and doesn't want it to define her life. The problem, then, is can she find a way out ...
Laura is an attractive woman, and the film shows how such beauty can be represented in terms of sexual objectification. The men who pay to see her typically abuse her body, not caring about her suffering. The aim of the film is to get you to think about such goings-on, and to question whether it's legitimate that some people - in this case, a young female student - find themselves in such desperate circumstances that they turn to prostitution. Ought state and society do more to support people's needs? At the very end of film, Laura is being interviewed - as if on TV - about precisely these circumstances.
If you're fascinated by the dark side of prostitution, by how it can impact upon the lives of those involved in it, then I highly recommend this film.
Deborah Francis is quite beautiful both to look at and in her acting; she is a talented actress which this film shows to the full, as the film is only really about her. However, the story is poor. Her character is conflicting as she is both pathetic and aggressive. To say that the viewer does not really engage with the character is the bottom line, because you really do not care what happens too much towards the end of the film. Oh and the film in my opinion is not erotic although there is some nudity. Also there is a lack of continuity in the way in which the scenes are put together and this is rather irritating. Nevertheless if you like Deborah Francis the film is worth a view.
I generally enjoyed this film - based on the 'true/shocking' revelations of a (French) female university student who turned to the world's oldest profession to help finance her way thru school. It is, perhaps, the 'expose' angle of the movie that slants the general tenor of the piece towards a negative vibe - as the viewer is introduced to the story's lead character, Laura, and follows her down a path of personal denigration as she barters her youthful body for some spending cash & millennial trinkets.
The 'shock value' of the source book from which the screenplay was derived is based on the (purported) 'epidemic' levels of prostitution engaged in by female college students to make ends meet - so it is not surprising that the director has seemingly gone out of their way to make sure that the sexual 'pay for play' activities of the film's star are not made to look 'enjoyable'. In this, at least, they have managed to succeed!
The lead actress, Deborah Francois, IS lovely - in just the right way to provide a vulnerable heroine for the sordid tale... and she sure doesn't appear to like what she's doing in the sexual realm - so much so - that after a while I found the plot to become rather disingenuous and dis-engaging. Despite many scenes where Ms Francois fully reveals her attractive body and participates in sexual congress with a variety of sorta 'flawed' male individuals - there is nothing arousing about any of it. Could the girl be any more 'bored' & repulsed?! It really makes one wonder why her one repeat customer 'Joe' keeps coming back for more... or why she sticks it out for as long as she does.
Without treading into the politically/morally dicey territory surrounding the whole issue of prostitution - I felt that this film presents a sort of mono-dimensional and moralistic take on the situation. Some reviewers compare 'Student Services' to the likes of "Pretty Woman" and extol its' virtues for presenting a more 'realistic' portrayal of the disagreeable aspects of prostitution - personally I might suggest that a more relevant comparison could be to the cable TV series "Diary of A Call Girl" based on the 'true' adventures of London escort (AND student!) Belle de Jour. 'Belle' also exhibits a 'conflicted' character in trying to reconcile the two sides of her life in the face of society's general disdain for sex workers - but she, at least, takes 'some' pleasure in her craft, and on occasion even finds her sexual skills to be of 'service' in helping individuals overcome personal problems. Admittedly, the 'clients' that Laura encounters in "Student Services" are portrayed as a particularly loutish lot - but 'where's the love'?! Ultimately I began to sympathize w/ her self loathing and sorta lost interest in the 'story' - such as it was. There are obviously 'bigger issues' of youth poverty and socioeconomic inequality at play - but none of them get meaningfully addressed/answered in this film. On a strictly prurient level - worth a look for the fetching form of Ms Francois in the buff - but nothing to get too excited about.