"The Big Picture" is perfectly French; sleek, stylish, chic, and a little bit cold. And though it is intelligent, there is a feeling of utter genericness that can't be ignored. We've seen the plot before; man kills man, steals identity, and trades lives. As entertaining as it can be, "The Big Picture" doesn't add anything new to the table, albeit anything enjoyable enough to really stand out. At least Catherine Deneuve's in it.
Paul Exben (Romain Duris) is a man that every other man envies: he has a pretty wife (Marina Foïs), a dependable job, and loving kids. He achieves the American dream, even though he's French. Things take a downhill turn when his wife begins to adopt an icy demeanor; before long, Paul discovers that she is having an affair with his friend, Grégoire (Eric Ruf), a successful photographer.
Paul confronts him at home, but in a jealous rage he accidentally kills him. Rather than face the consequences, he disposes of the body, and goes step by step in order to achieve a clean getaway. A short time later, Paul takes a job opportunity Grégoire had, and steals his identity.
One of the biggest problems with "The Big Picture" is the lead character. Though Duris is, as usual, excellent, Paul is a loathsome character. It's easy to see that he mopes around day to day, and quickly we side with his wife, who, understandably, prefers someone with a little more joy in their heart. When he commits murder, we know that he is scared, but because we get acquainted with him in such a depressing manner, our sympathy isn't there when it should.
The entire plot, though filled with well-written dialogue and quite a deal of grittiness is basic, and it has been done many times before, often times better. Through the film, Paul's hair grows, and his face becomes more sour - it's a look towards downward-spiraling that is fascinating. But there isn't much else that sets it apart.
Lartigau's direction is stylish and cold, which is fitting to the atmosphere, but it is lacking the human touch that would benefit towards connecting with Paul. Because that aspect fails to really grab us, the film feels like almost a task to finish. Badly enough, there isn't much of a payoff either, and it sure would be nice if there was one.
"The Big Picture" has a lot going for it, but in the end, it's forgettable. For a film so professional and beautifully shot, it just doesn't grab out attention the way it should. It's a shame. As as a bonus criticism, it underuses Catherine Deneuve.