Sunday, 12 June 2011

Little White Lies

A change of tack here for writer/director Guillame Canet who has scored one of the biggest hits in French history with this dramedy. Once more Canet hires gifted actors, Francois Cluzet and Gilles Loulleche from his previous film, the effective thriller Tell No One. Marion Cotillard is also part of a convincing ensemble cast. 

Max (Cluzet), a successful Parisian hotelier is significantly older than the gang of thirty-somethings he has invited to his holiday home. He is also comically uptight. He and his guests eat, drink, make merry, (and sometimes miserable) on the very attractive southwest coast. All the while a good friend of theirs languishes in hospital. While amusing and vaguely charming, the group are self-absorbed and have the scruples of hyenas.

The comedy is broad but undeniably funny, and the drama is quite touching. The influence of Hollywood is fairly obvious. Sad really because it would have been so much better were it a little more ‘French’. The use of music laid over comedy montages, for example, is heavy-handed. Generally, it is skilfully directed and there is one moment in particular that is pure bravura filmmaking.

There are few lessons learned by the characters so I’m not exactly sure what the film is saying. Perhaps simply, ‘humans aren’t perfect so don’t expect us to be’. Not the best message for personal growth but hey, it’s one that can make us feel better about ourselves. Well, at least all of those French people that went to see it.

Do find myself saying this a lot these days, but the film is overlong. Might be worth noting that The Big Chill, similar in subject and a film held dear to this reviewer, told a superior story in 49 minutes less (49 minutes!) than the running time of Little White Lies.   

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