Cuties: Netflix Film Review


You’ll have probably heard about Cuties due to the marketing controversy Netflix ended up in over the poster, which many argued sexualised 11-year-olds, but the Sundance award-winning French film is now streaming and you can decide for yourself whether it deserves all the fuss.

The film follows Amy (Fathia Youssouf), an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant living in a poor neighbourhood in Paris with her mother and brothers, who are waiting for the patriarch of the family to come from Senegal to join them. Amy becomes fascinated with her neighbour Angelica (Medina El Aidi-Azouni) and her adult-style dance troupe Cuties, who are practising for an upcoming dance contest.

In this coming-of-age film, originally titled Mignonnes, Amy explores two polar opposite models of feminity – the contrast between the traditional Muslim values she is expected to practice at home with Internet culture and the sexualisation of young girls – as the Cuties perform jaw-droppingly risque routines in tiny outfits and can usually be seen in school wearing crop tops and small shorts. We follow her as she figures out who she wants to be and naturally, she wants to rebel against the conservative way she was raised, especially given her current complicated home life, so she throws herself fully into this new side and ultimately takes things way too far.

Although I could appreciate the point writer/director Maimouna Doucore was trying to make and was aware that it was deliberately designed to push buttons, I still felt incredibly uncomfortable watching these 11-year-olds twerk and perform very sexual moves during their dance routines. The final number made me cringe. I was horrified by the way the camera lingered on their bodies like it was an adult music video and I imagine everybody would be kicking off more if this was directed by a man. There are other scenes outside of the dance numbers that will likely cause controversy too, but I felt like these fit in with the coming-of-age narrative.

However, Youssouf, who was cast as Amy after a long hunt for the lead, can really dance and pulls off those routines with confidence and attitude. Amy has a lot going on inside and for a complete newcomer, I was so impressed with Youssouf’s performance. You would never think she was only 11 with the way she can command her emotions on cue. I also loved El Aidi-Azouni as Angelica. She can dance and she’s the most reasonable and likeable member of the bunch.

The poignancy of the coming-of-age content is slightly negated by the gasp-inducing dance routines which is a shame because Amy’s story is actually quite moving. There are also a couple of funny moments in there as well as some bizarre fantastical elements that seem to come out of nowhere and don’t gel with the grounded vibe of the movie. There are some great moments, don’t get me wrong, but despite its best intentions, Cuties didn’t completely work for me.

Streaming on Netflix now 

Rating: 3/5


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