RODEO – Review by Jennifer Merin

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Rodeo is French director Lola Quivoron’s compelling feature about a tough teenage girl’s hard knocks life and her intense struggle for validation and a sense of belonging.

Julia (beautifully portrayed by Julie Ledru) is a disenfranchised refugee kid who lives a feral life in rural France. She is obsessed with motorbikes and finds her only joy in riding them. She knows just about everything there is to know about them. She’s good at fixing them. She’s good at stealing them, too. And, thievery proves to be the skill that earns her longed-for acceptance into the bad boy — boys only — motorbike gang that rules the roads.

Gang membership puts her in danger. She’s brutally bullied by chauvinistic gang members who object to her presence, resent her superior skills and try to sabotage her rapid rise in rank within the gang’s hierarchy.

Julia quickly discovers that gang membership doesn’t provide the safe and accepting environment she expected. She is not allowed to come and go as she pleases. Her movements are monitored by the gang’s much feared leader, who dictates day-to-day doings from a jail cell. Julia is mandated to be a conduit between the gang leader and his closely-watched wife, a terrified woman with whom she sympathizes. They become genuine friends, confiding in and supporting each other in defying the severe restrictions placed upon them.

The police are a constant threat to Julia, too — more intensely so when Julia leads gang members on a lucrative but risky robbery.

Rodeo is an enthralling character-driven thriller. The narrative follows Julia’s unrelenting determination to be somebody, even if that somebody is female “thug.” The narrative is infused with details that suggest how Julia got to be who she is and how she figures out where she wants to go. Lola Quivoron takes a tough, confrontational theme and turns it into an emotion-grabbing character study of a young woman who, against all odds, uses her wits to triumph.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).