This is a film that Woody Allen should have made, in English. It would have been in keeping with his skills and would have produced a better picture than any of his recent movies.
In this French-language movie, with very good English subtitles, you get a story about neurotic Parisian 30 and 40-somethings who go on vacation to Bordeaux, leaving their best friend home in Paris in hospital after a motorcycle crash. Holidays, in France, are sacred.
There is a big debt to “The Big Chill”, a nod to the poignant moments of “Friends” and a hefty dose of “Manhattan-Sur-Seine”. It’s a brave attempt to say something meaningful about the inner life of the characters played by the stellar cast. Before I say anything else, I must point out that both I and my companion throughly enjoyed it and discussed it for hours afterwards.
If you loved Guillaume Canet’s “Tell No One” (“Ne le dis a personne”) you will find yourself in familiar territory. If you believe “Annie Hall” is Woody Allen’s best movie, this one’s for you.
Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner for “La Vie En Rose”) plays Marie, a rather damaged bisexual. Benoit Magimel has the role of Vincent, who is married to Isa (Pascale Arbillot) but has feelings for Max, the alpha male restauranteur who dominates the whole picture. Francois Cluzet portrays Max as a toxic but loveable monster of ego, controlling all in his wake.
Gilles Lelouche and Laurent Lafitte play Eric and Antoine, who have been rejected in love. Valerie Bonneton is Vero, Max’s wife and she is ecologically conscientious, long-suffering and able to control her husband.
Ludo – the friend back in hospital – wastes Jean Dujardin by having too few minutes of him on screen although there are 154 minutes to this movie’s running time and considerably too much hammering home how Max is attempting to control everyone and everything. The funniest moments come from Max taking an axe to his bathroom to stop ferrets from disturbing his sacred beach idyll. These scenes are “Furry Vengeance” on steroids.
Joel Dupuch as Jean-Louis, Hocine Merabet as Nassim and Maxim Nucci as Franck are bit players, but have the most likeable characters here. Lots of scenes will make you laugh out loud.
It is thoroughly enjoyable and stylish and brings a new sensibility to France’s “new” New Wave.
Belgium quite clearly stands in for France in key scenes. Christophe Offenstein’s cinematography makes everything and everyone look gorgeous. The attendance at Stratford’s Picturehouse was sparse and that’s disappointing, because it is a big brave picture that works hard to get you to think and laugh about life, work and love.
The soundtrack – almost all English songs – is really very good.
My reservations are few. I would have liked to see much more development of the female characters. The gay and lesbian plots do not have much credibility or back story, as if they have been toned down for mass consumption. More was needed of Ludo, to make sense of the ending.
And there is no way that “Little White Lies” begins to transmit the depth of “Les Petits Mouchoirs” with its depth of cover up, self-deceit and lying. The English title is a cop out from the French meaning.
I will go see anything Guillaume Canet makes in future. He has style and verve and amazing flair. But I do wish he permitted his women more time and some depth of motivation. Go see it. It’s provocative and original.