Like its heroine, Abuse of Weakness wastes no time looking back, eschewing flashbacks of director Maud Schoenberg (Isabelle Huppert) ruling over a set or being courted by critics at Cannes. Instead, we meet Maud as she wakes up from a twitchy sleep to find herself half-paralyzed by a stroke. Director Catherine Breillat doesn’t linger long on her recovery either. We see enough of sterile, near-silent hospital rooms and painful therapy sessions to know it was a long slog, but we’re soon back home with Maud in her high-ceilinged Paris apartment, where the real story begins—and takes place, for the most part, since she can’t get around without help and she’s too proud to ask for much.
So the world comes to her, primarily in the form of Vilko Piran (Kool Shen), a charming brute she recruits to star in her next film. From his first visit, when he climbs casually onto a bookshelf to get a better look at what’s there, it’s clear that Vilko is as used as Maud is to being top dog, and that these two magnetic people are genuinely fascinated with each other, though it’s not entirely clear why. He soon becomes the leading man in Maud’s life, if not in her movie, pursuing her as if he were an ardent lover—though he kisses her only once, and then very awkwardly. He also gets her to write him more and more checks, apparently of her own free will, until she bankrupts herself.