2010’s Little White Lies is a French Comedy-Drama from actor/director Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) and stars an ensemble cast of the great and the good of French cinema in a story about love, friendship and lies.
The film begins in a
night club where Ludo (Jean Dujardin – The Artist) is drinking. On his way home his scooter is hit by a lorry and he
is left with severe injuries. After visiting him in hospital, his close group
of friends decide that they will continue with their yearly tradition of
holidaying at hotel owner Max’s (Francois Cluzet – Tell No One) holiday home near Paris in spite of Ludo’s inability to join
them. Seven friends set off for two weeks, leaving Ludo in the Bordeaux hospital. There is plenty of eating,
drinking and boating but also tension in the group for various reasons, all of
which are played out and resolved over the 154 minute run time. Paris
The film features some extraordinarily stereotyped characters. Of the women there is an Earth Mother type (Valérie Bonneton), a free spirit, arty one (Marion Cotillard) and a sexually frustrated wife/mother (Pascale Arbillot). Of the male characters there is the drug taking, party boy (Dujardin), playboy, arrogant actor (Gilles Lellouche – Adele Blanc-sec), the rich obsessive (Cluzet), the neurotic (Laurent Lafitte) and the sexually confused husband (Benoît Magimel). There are some fantastic actors in that bunch and some of them are spectacular in the film but all of the characters are badly drawn and stereotypical.
The story intertwines and proceeds at a steady pace. It is interesting to watch and like being a fly on the wall at an extended middle class dinner party. The film almost invites the audience in as one of the friends and makes you want to be part of the group. There are nice little side stories with each character spending time with each other and each having their own problems and issues, some of which are more volatile than others. The script isn’t particularly funny but the film most definitely is. The humour comes from the awkwardness of certain situations and the actor’s physical reactions to the dialogue, mostly in the form of surprised looks and glaring glances. Every now and then a secondary character will pop in for a few minutes which helps to add to the realism of the story.
The acting is fantastic across the board with Bonneton and Lellouche receiving Cesar nominations for their efforts. Personally I thought that Cluzet stood out more and Cotillard was very understated but fiery when she needed to be. Dujardin is also very good in a smaller role than the others. Either way, the film is an acting master class. One thing that perhaps helped with the acting and also helped to make the film feel so realistic are the actor’s relationships with each other. Cluzet and Bonneton are married, Cotillard is married to the director Canet and Cluzet, Lellouche and Canet worked together on Tell No One. These pre-existing working and personal relationships must have helped the director and cast to feel at ease while working together and it definitely shows up on film. It feels like everyone had fun making the film.
One thing that nearly ruined the film for me is the music. The choice of music is diabolical. The director has chosen music to intensify the audience’s emotions but in doing so is treating his audience like idiots. Each time there is a sad scene some mushy, American Ballard is played and when we need to be uplifted we get some sort of happy, funky pop. Its shocking how bad the music is and the director might as well have just had flashing red letters on the screen reading ‘LAUGH NOW’ or ‘BE SAD’ at the appropriate moments. I can’t tell you how much this irked me and it honestly came close to ruining an otherwise decent film.
Overall this is an admirable film which features an engaging story and fantastic acting. It is both funny and sad and feels incredibly realistic. It is too long however and makes use of some terrible music.