You say “French whore” like it’s a bad thing. Actually, only one of the prostitutes (played by Anais Demoustier) in Elles is French — the other (played by Joanna Kulig) is Polish, like director Malgoska Szumowska. These girls are working their way through college, a timely topic with student loans all over the news. They’re being interviewed by Anne (Juliette Binoche, pictured) for a story in Elle magazine.

Hearing the young women talk about their jobs has an effect on Anne, a harried housewife who juggles her career with making dinner for her husband’s boss, dealing with a truant teenager, visiting her father in the hospital and various stresses and frustrations. She’s forced to compare what she does for material things to what the younger women are doing.

Elles is virtually plotless, made up of scenes from the three women’s work and home lives.

The sex scenes are worth a thousand words of interviews. Technically softcore, they recall the Deep Throat era, when it was fashionable to watch porn in mainstream moviehouses.

In the end, Elles is really about Binoche’s marvelous face, often shown in lingering close-ups. It says more without words than all the exposition in John Carter. Like her character, she holds everything together when it seems to be falling apart. She’s the center when there appears to be none.

— Steve Warren

Three stars. Opens today at the Angelika Mockingbird Station.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 18, 2012.