"Marilyn Monroe's School For French Girls" takes place across the kind of weekend you can remember fondly forever without admitting that actually, not everyone had fun.
When a group of friends decamps to the beach for a member's birthday weekend, any attempt at "conversation" is quickly rejected in favor of inside jokes and goofy bits. Everything is part of an elaborate pretend game where the friends are students at a French boarding school of the kind Madeleine attended, as well as, maybe, Marilyn Monroe. Even when someone brings up a dream or a ghost story, there's always the question: how much of this is real, and how much are we making up? Like so many long-term friends, some of them aren't friends at all, but people who have known one another too well, for too long, and know just what buttons to push. One is annoying, one is aggressive, one is honest to the point of brutality, but a brutality of the politest kind.
The naturalist dialogue and hand-held camerawork invite the viewer to observe the group dynamic up close and, well, personal. The performances feel grounded yet spontaneous, and the camaraderie is believable. Specific dialogue like "ass hair" and "Jesusa" offer us glimpses of the friendship at its best, wittiest, funniest, sweetest, before it devolves again into wine-soaked silliness. But it's really the details that make "Marilyn Monroe's School For French Girls": from the deceptively pretty watercolor title card to the humble, smashed cake. -Elizabeth Logan. Written and directed by Courtney Bush, Will Carington, and Jake Goicoechea.