Little White Lies
Starring: Francois Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoit Magimel, Jean Dujardin
Director: Guillaume Canet
Category: IIB (French)
For a film that purports to be a no-holds-barred depiction of a group of morally compromised thirtysomethings - Little White Lies is strangely squeaky clean. Somehow actor-turned-director Guillaume Canet has striven to keep all the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll off screen - which is all very well, but for the fact that his film is about how his vulnerable protagonists lead poisoned existences by evading the more painful, gritty aspects of their lives.
While Canet treads lightly on the edgier elements of adult relationships, he's hardly subtle in drawing out the emotional turmoil eating at his characters. There are repeated mentions about how truth hurts and lies heal, and there's the copious use of ballads (and 1960s and 70s English-language pop numbers to boot) to heighten the gravitas that dissipates pretty quickly as the film meanders through its 2 1/2-hour run. While Canet's insistence in making every morsel of emotion obvious might have led to the film's over-excessive duration, the problem also lies with his generosity in providing set-pieces for his cast to do some emotive grandstanding: rows, confessions and reminisces (including the teary scenes at the hackneyed funeral at the end of the film) are milked for all their worth.
The film begins with a lethal traffic accident which leads to the hospitalisation of Ludo (Jean Dujardin), the maverick spirit in a group of friends readying for their annual seaside holiday off Cap Ferret.
After visiting the critically injured man at a hospital, the group decides to proceed with their vacances anyway - a decision which heralds a journey into the characters' actualisation and self-realisation of their infantile and selfish traits. Leading the pack is Max (Francois Cluzet), a highly-strung and horribly self-regarding hotelier who owns the holiday villa. With him is Vincent (Benoit Magimel, above left with Cluzet), a married osteopath who unnerves Max by declaring his feelings for him; his struggling wife Isa (Pascale Arbillot); the actor Erik (Gilles Lelouche), a self-styled playboy who's more fragile than he seems; and Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), who spends all his time imposing his obsession with his ex onto his disgruntled friends.
And then there's the anthropologist Marie, a character that is at once the star of the piece and the physical embodiment of the film's ills. Marion Cotillard is called upon to deliver a wide range of emotions here, as she begins the film as a free-living, free-loving anthropologist who loathes the idea of her partners sleeping over at her apartment, and ends up a frightened, nervous wreck confronting that old chestnut of a problematic romance - an unexpected pregnancy. It's just one of the more glaringly cliched moments that would be more at home in troubled-relationship dramas emerging from Hollywood.
Little White Lies opens today