Little White Lies Reviews
This film is a modern French version of The Big Chill. One can even draw one-to-one comparisons between the characters: Francois Cluzet's character = Kevin Kline's character, Jean Dujardin's character = Kevin Costner's character, Marion Cotillard's character = a combination of Meg Tilly's and Mary Kay Place's characters. It even has many of the same songs. It's okay to imitate, especially when a film is imitating one of the best, and The Big Chill is a superior film. But there are two important aspects of comparison that I consider relevant to evaluating Little White Lies. First, The Big Chill's characters could be reduced to types, but by the end of the film, the individual qualities of these character cause them to rise above the cliche type: the philosophical justifications behind Jeff Goldblum's character make him more interesting than the horny guy type. The same is true with Little White Lies; the scene outside Lea's apartment in Paris makes Gilles Lillouche's character more interesting than his horny guy type. This is where the French version succeeds, but The Big Chill, in addition to being an interesting film in itself, it's also a cultural critique, capturing the ennui and disappointment and failures of the Baby Boomer generation. It may be that Little White Lies makes a similar cultural critique for French audiences, but it doesn't translate, and including the sixties nostalgia songs that graced The Big Chill only serves to muddy the film's message.
Overall, this is a strong film with excellent performances and esprit de corps, but the film's larger context makes it less than its idols.
This film is sooooo long. It's two and a half hours of people just talking and having emotions. I had to take breaks for coffee periodically. I really enjoy French culture and especially it's cinema, but this movie just did not work on multiple levels for me. The stories were mostly uninteresting despite having a great ensemble cast. Everyone just came off as selfish and pretty unlikable.
PS: The music cues are sort of awful. Too on the button and all like American classic rock songs, so it makes the whole ambiance of the film feel strange.
The film begins with Ludo (Dujardin) partying all night long, hopping on his motorcycle to go home, and then getting hit by a truck. His large group of friends, all close for over a decade, become worried sick-- yet none of them can seem to sacrifice a beach vacation that Max (Cluzet) and his wife (Valérie Bonneton) offer every year.
We don't think much of this-- after all, all of the friends seem like nice enough people, and as soon as we get a look at the beach house and the view, we're sucked in too. But it's a problem.
These friends have had such long, complex relationships that they can't seem to tell each other their true feelings, and so basically, everyone's lying to each other. Marie (Cotillard) still has feelings for Ludo; Vincent (Benoît Magimel), who's married with two kids, can't help but tell Max that he has a crush on him; Eric (Gilles Lellouche) is dumped by his girlfriend but is too embarrassed to share; and Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) asks his friends for advice on how to win his girlfriend back but he won't share any big details. In essence, these are all "little white lies", but how long can they last?
Even from the beginning of "Les Petits Mouchoirs", you can tell something catastrophic is going to happen, whether or not a friendship ends or a misunderstanding gets out of control. But as we sit there expecting it, Canet makes us wait, and instead of everything happening abruptly, he takes his time, letting us get to know these characters, while letting them get to realize each others issues. Yet there's a tension that remains because we feel a sense of dread but we don't know when it's coming; we can't help but care because this group of friends are no different than most. All of the acting is terrific; these are wonderfully realized roles.
The characters are developed gradually, and in a way that makes them look flawed, maybe even giving us the idea that we'd see them walking down the street (even the eternally beautiful Cotillard looks a bit more normal here). Some of these people we like, and some of them we don't, but either way the actors pull off that task of really looking like friends. And when you have a "The Big Chill"-esque idea like this one, that's a very important component. Canet in turns directs with warmth, and in others, harsh realism.
If it was just a teeny bit shorter, "Les Petits Mouchoirs" could be perfect. But when we live in a world where movies don't even attempt to be as complex and real as this one, it's hard to even complain. Setting all problems aside, there's many moments of brilliance that eventually, outweigh the issues.