Cannes Film Festival: A Story of Head Over Heels

Oh to be barefoot and Julia Roberts in the South of France. But of course, if you are Julia Roberts and you do happen to find yourself walking barefoot down the sumptuous red carpet at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the French Riviera, then you must either have really, really bad blisters or be making a statement like only a true A-list Hollywood icon can. 

Before we reach a verdict, let’s examine the facts: Last year, at the 2015 Cannes screening of Carol, a group of women in their 50s were denied admission into the theater because (I kid you not) they were wearing rhinestone flats. No, Cannes isn’t anti-rhinestone or opposed to things that sparkle but yes, the festival is against flat shoes. Apparently there’s a Cannes Film Festival rule that states women must wear uncomfortable, sixty-inch-high stilettos (or something) while attending movie showings. Um, excusez-moi?

The access-denied faux pas infuriated many of Cannes’ film-debuting actresses, with Emily Blunt leading the irate flat pack. “Everyone should wear flats, to be honest. We shouldn’t wear high heels,” the Golden Globe winner told reporters during the Cannes screening of her movie, Sicario, last year. “That’s very disappointing,” she added. “Just when you kind of think there are these new waves of equality.”

Cannes officials declined to comment on the incident but did confirm that it is compulsory for women to wear high heels to all red-carpet events.

Which brings us back to a shoeless Julia Roberts sauntering onto the 2016 Cannes carpet for the premiere of her new movie, Money Monster, a Jodie Foster-directed thriller also starring no less than George Clooney. The appearance marked Roberts’ first time at Festival de Cannes, and it can only be assumed that she wanted her red carpet inauguration to be one not soon forgotten by Cannes organizers … or the world.

Roberts showed up in a floor-length, black Armani PrivĂ© gown Vanity Fair described as “fairly straightforward” before admitting the neckline was “actually evocative of the famous red dress Roberts wore in Pretty Woman.” And by “actually evocative” I think VF meant it was pretty much the exact same freaking dress, except in black. When Roberts flashed her signature smile—at once toothy and dazzling and effervescently, movie-star perfect—there was no doubt she was feeling every inch the Pretty Woman.

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Still, the question remains: What does it all mean?

The Pretty Woman-esque ballgown, the shoeless superstar, the infamous Rhinestone Flats Fiasco of 2015. How can we make everything fit together? I can only think that Roberts’ decision to go sans shoes on the high heel-mandated red carpet was her way of sticking a beautiful, couture-clad middle finger at the Cannes officials and, in true Pretty Woman fashion, telling them they made one big, huge mistake.

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[MELISSA MARNI is a Southern California-based writer and the founder of little word studio. You can follow her musings on Instagram here.]