Though the country plays host to some of the most gorgeous locales, an infinite amount of history, and an abundance of talented, beautiful performers, most modern French movies feature homegrown actors not well-known outside the province. Recently, however, a couple local kids have made good, as can be seen with Marion Cotillard and Jean Dujardin’s recent trips across the Atlantic to take home Oscars despite some very starry competition.
Both Cotillard and Dujardin appear in Guillaume Canet’s latest, Little White Lies, a far cry from his last movie, 2008’s riveting thriller Tell No One. At more than two and a half hours, Lies is a different animal altogether. Instead of finding a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the result is a lot closer to a turkey.
But don’t watch Lies for depth. Instead, Canet’s ensemble also includes some of France’s other greatest stars, including short-fused hotelier Max (François Cluzet), who hauls his circle of friends for an annual summer getaway to Cap Ferret where they try to avoid and eventually address their petty problems. Max, for instance, has just learned that his married chiropractor friend, Vincent (Benoît Magimel), has inexplicably fallen somewhere between love and lust for him. Laurent Lafitte is Antoine, obsessing with texts from an ex, while Eric (Gilles Lellouche), is a caddish actor with a wandering eye. Marie (Cotillard, who is Canet’s real-life girlfriend), meanwhile, is a nomadic filmmaker bored with the lazy Susan of men in her life.
All of these threads, familiar as they are, might be amusing if they weren’t juxtaposed with the recent bike crash that has left their friend, Ludo (Dujardin), severely injured and hospitalized. (The group has decided to continue with their summer sojourn despite his accident, but has trimmed their stay from four weeks to two.) Canet’s half-serious film undercuts would cut have just been an amusing comedy about friendship but also feels to self-important about problems that really aren’t so sizable in the grand scheme of things.
And like all of the houseguests who annoy an increasingly irritable Max, Lies overstays its welcome. This fusion of The Big Chill, Peter’s Friends, and Return of the Secaucus Seven is slow, meandering, and doesn’t penetrate very deeply. Canet’s notion – that even the best of friends lie to themselves – is also insultingly slight. Friends who have known each other this intimately for years will forgive each other’s faults, but also call each other out on their bull. Lies gives the impression that for the first time, these buds have woken up to each other’s crap, and feels phony. How did these characters meet? What drew them to each other, and kept them a cohesive unit? Yes, Christophe Offenstein’s cinematography of the French country is beautiful, as are Canet’s stunning cast. But Lies should also provide a reason to watch this movie without turning on the mute button.
Little White Lies opens in New York and Los Angeles on August 24.
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