The film is set in a German border town. At one point a man hails a cab, saying “To France!” and there is something of a frontier town feel to the place. There seem to be fewer rules, for one thing: people smoke in bars and restaurants, seat-belts are optional and the rules of the road don’t seem to apply here. Yet rather than any western, the film shares more with Sweet Charity: when we enter the cabaret club for the first time it is reminiscent of the “Hey, Big Spender” scene as we watch the various dancers plying their trade before a handful of men.
Another similarity with that musical is the camaraderie between the women and their pragmatic view of the men who frequent their clubs. They are all too aware that men who declare their love are not to be trusted in the clear light of day. As with Sweet Charity, this film also centres on a wedding: that of Angelique to regular punter Michel (Joseph Bour). The question is: will the wedding take place, or will it all fall apart before the big day?
Both The Wrestler and Gloria portray characters navigating new relationships, dealing with their grown-up kids and facing retirement and the indignities of ageing. Yet the big difference between those two films and this one is that, for all their failings and bad life decisions, you feel for the characters and are emotionally involved in their stories.
Angelique has no redeeming qualities: she’s a bad mother, a heartless lover and an ugly drunk. Fortunately for the viewer, Michel provides pathos and compassion. Angelique’s four children are also sympathetic, particularly Cynthia. She doesn’t know who her dad is and has been brought up by foster parents for ten years. Yet the 16-year-old loves her mum unconditionally and gives a moving speech about her feelings.
This is one of the film’s main strengths: the acting is flawless and the viewer feels immersed in this marginal town with its marginalised characters. We are also left wondering how much is fact and how much is fiction. And Angélique Litzenburger is fabulous in her first acting role. Party Girl shows something of the underbelly of society with compassion and perhaps with a little indulgence.