Saturday, August 25, 2012

Little White Lies

An enjoyable, if fluffy, evening at the multiplex began with “Little White Lies,” a sort of French “Big Chill” by Guillaume Canet, writer-director of “Tell No One.” After Ludo is critically injured in a motorcycle accident as the opening credits end (Jean Dujardin, choosing an odd follow-up to his “Artist” Oscar, gets the Kevin Costner part), his friends, who’d been about to depart for their annual month of vacation at the beach house of Max (François Cluzet) and Véro (Valérie Bonneton), decide to go ahead with just a fortnight of fun in the sun. The camarades include Gilles Lellouche as the overgrown man-child Eric, Benoît Magimel as the handsome osteopath Vincent, and Marion Cotillard as the much loved and desired but intimacy-phobic Marie.

The primary joy of “Little White Lies” lies in the surprisingly big laughs it generates, mostly during the middle hour (full disclosure: it runs 154 minutes). It takes a while for us to get to know the characters, but once we do, the picture builds some real farcical momentum, particularly between Vincent, who’s happily married with children but finds himself unexpectedly drawn to his patient, the hyper-tense Max. Marie is nowhere near as fine a role for Cotillard as her Oscar-winning turn in “La Vie en Rose,” but rarely has the actress seemed so warm or appealing. This is the first time I remember feeling as simpatico with her.

Canet can’t quite pull off the movie’s late stabs at deeper meaning. (When a minor character delivers a stinging rebuke of the lot of them, questioning their friendship with Ludo, you think, “Who the fuck asked you?”) And “Little White Lies” takes a bit too long to end. But along the way, it’s a warm, funny août at the shore, with some delicious throwaway lines. At one point, Véro, pissed at Max, asks for drink orders with breakfast. “Coffee for me,” says Max, to which she replies, without flinching, “That I knew.”

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