[Review] – Little White Lies

18 Sep

Title: Little White Lies
Year: 2012
Director: Guillaume Canet
Writer: Guillaume Canet
Starring: François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Jean Dujardin, Laurent Lafitte, Valérie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 154 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Metacritic: 49

Guillaume Canet is the handsome Frenchman who’s been hailed as one of the greatest upcoming actors France has to offer. Now, while he’s obviously known much more for being an actor, he’s also branched out to directing, and his previous effort behind the camera, 2006’s Tell No One was just an absolutely brilliantly-crafted thriller that I seriously recommend anyone who hasn’t seen it to seek out. Now, while he already has his first English language offering set up for release next year, called Blood Ties and featuring a very promising cast, we now get to check out Little White Lies, a 2010 film that played at that year’s TIFF but is just now getting a release Stateside.

The film is not only directed by Mr. Canet, but it also stars the biggest names in French cinema right now. You have Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, who also happens to be Mr. Canet’s girlfriend and mother of his son (his ex-wife is Diane Kruger, with whom he’s still friends, so yeah, like I said, handsome guy); then there’s last year’s Oscar winner Jean Dujardin and the great François Cluzet, who was in this year’s infinitely crowd-pleasing The Intouchables and also starred in the aforementioned Tell No One for Mr. Canet. So, yes, really big names attached to this really big film, which clocks in at over two and a half hours.

It’s an ensemble piece about eight close friends who are learning to say goodbye to their youthful ways and sort of experience all that comes with getting to mid-life (crisis or not). Nothing would please me more than to inform you that this was an absolutely great film, mostly because I really like a lot of the talent involved here, but the fact is that I can’t; Little White Lies isn’t a bad film at all, it’s just so far from being a great one.

Mr. Dujardin won his Oscar (for what to me wasn’t even a Top 10 Lead Actor performance of 2011, but that’s another story) for playing a movie star during the late 20’s in a silent, black-and-white film. Seeing him here as Ludo is a far, far cry from what he did as George Valentin; not only is he in a contemporary setting and allowed to talk, but he’s this party animal, clubbing like crazy, drinking and doing coke then leaving the club in his scooter only to get blindsided by a truck coming full speed ahead and then left comatose at the local hospital.

Ludo is one the eight close friends the film is about, and of course as tightly-knit friends will always do the rest of the bunch comes to his side as he’s on the mend. They are all there and realize that, just as their close friend lies in a hospital bed it’s about time for their annual holiday trip to Cap Ferrat, to that lovely beach house owned by Max, the older member of the group, a wealthy restauranteur played by Mr. Cluzot. They eventually decide against canceling their trip and before you know it we’re off to the beach.

You’ll undoubtedly get this totally The Big Chill-esque kind of vibe from this film as you get to know this group of friends; that comparison is a totally obvious one to make, this film being to contemporary French people in their 30’s and 40’s what that one was to Americans in that same age group at the beginning of the 80’s.

Max is a total control freak, short-tempered and totally obsessed with every little thing in his beach retreat. He’s also married and has children, whom he takes on the holiday; another guy who’s married and with kids is Vincent, his closest friend played by Benoît Magimel here. So of course it comes as huge shock when one day Vincent tells Max that he’s absolutely in love with him, not that he’s gay, he reassures him, he’s just realized that he’s in love with him. Max takes this whole thing the wrong way, exhibiting a total hostile kind of mood that doesn’t necessarily surprise those around him who are used to seeing him in a foul state of mind.

Then you have the lovely Marion Cotillard, one of the best actresses of her generation, and she plays Marie here, this free-spirited girl, a bisexual who was once involved with Ludo and takes too much pity on herself. Like I said, all top-notch performers playing these characters who you get to know so well. I would agree that having this film be 154 minutes long is a bit too much, it does feel like it’s dragging along more than once, but it’s also kind of refreshing to have so much time to organically get to know these people since normally all of this would have been crammed in a film that was 45 minutes shorter.

Now, as amazing as these actors are, and trust me when I say they are, with Mr. Cluzot just commanding the screen like crazy effortlessly, and the rest of the cast being equally skilled at playing off each other with the witty kind of banter Mr. Canet’s screenplay provides them, I just don’t feel as though I can call this movie truly great or even all that good. Is it worthy of a recommendation? Well, yes, probably, I’d tell you to give it a shot, it’s a decent flick, but it’d be a very slight kind of recommendation.

What didn’t allow me to really get into this film and truly fall for it was the fact that I thought I had heard all of this before. I thought it meandered around these rivalries and loves and jealousies to say something about these French “bobos”, these yuppies hitting their forties or a bit past them that behave somehow combining bourgeoisie with bohemianism, the film at the end even makes an obvious comment about their self-absorption and materialism to wrap it all nicely up. Valid points, for sure, it was just stuff that I thought I had seen before done better and that wasn’t all that interesting here. I’m still very excited for Blood Ties, but, as for Little White Lies, I was a little disappointed.

Grade: B-

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