The Big Picture - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Picture Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ October 21, 2012
"The Big Picture" starts with the sounds of a baby crying that Paul(Romain Duris), a lawyer, answers, leaving his wife Sarah(Marina Fois) to enjoy her restful sleep a little longer. The following morning she gives him the cold shoulder at breakfast which even their older son takes notice of. The day does not get any better for Paul when his friend and mentor Anne(Catherine Deneuve) informs him over sushi that she is dying. Sarah soon after tells him that she is giving up writing which only leads to another argument. As an amateur photographer, Paul is friends with Greg(Eric Ruf), a professional, later confronting him over fears that he is having an affair with Sarah...

"The Big Picture" is a well-photographed, engaging and ironic movie about the nature of identity, even with one sizable contrivance. Along these same lines, it took me a while to realize how much a double entendre the title is. From clues scattered throughout the movie, it becomes clear that while Paul and Sarah may have started out at the same place of idealism in their young lives, somewhere along the way, their paths diverged widely, even as Paul tries to maintain his scruffy appearance. Part of that may involve an intervention for Paul, like the one he gives to a teenage client, by people who in feeling they had his best interests at heart, took away some critical part of his personality. So, years later, Sarah has an affair with somebody who reminds her of a younger Paul who Paul in return pretends to be, while also getting a glimpse of a possible future. While doing this in the most selfish way possible, he also learns quite a lot about himself in the process, thus explaining why the movie ends where it does.
Super Reviewer
½ June 5, 2011
A difficult to categorise, deeply immersive beautifully shot and acted anti-thriller. Romain Duris puts in a typically impressive performance as a hard-working father who had dreams of being a photographer which he put aside in favour of the security of a well paid job. When he discovers his wife is having an affair with a professional photographer (who has yet to get his 'big break'), he confronts the man and in an altercation accidentally kills him. Rather than confessing (he fears he would be forever be labelled a murderer), he covers up the crime and in an elaborate plan, steal the photographer's identity and fakes his own death. Setting off with a camera he pursues the dream career he always wanted, but is now a broken wreck of a man looking to atone...

There are at least half a dozen shifts in this wonderfully different film, all of which subtly change the tone of the film without interrupting the flow. Whilst the story occasionally indulges in coincidences for the most part the film feels realistic, and Duris' nuanced study really helps you to believe in him and essentially hope for his 'deliverance'. Stunningly cinematography, almost poetic editing and an open ending combined with spare writing mark The Big Picture out as one of the masterpieces of French cinema. Really worth tracking down.
½ February 8, 2014
A film that makes you wonder about circumstantially leaving riches, career and children behind to be a photographer in war-torn Serbia, living on a 100euro/month rental in the middle of nowhere. For much of the movie, one keeps asking, "why?" but by the abrupt end one can only conclude: "if so, why not sooner?"
November 3, 2014
Great suspense, well acted, the images were well constructed......
½ August 24, 2012
When an accident puts the lead character on a path, he always wanted to take but never dared to take, it comes with a baggage of things he didn't really ask for. A stunning tale of man whose only chance to keep his freedom is to dissolve into anonymity.
May 13, 2014
Movies that you know nothing about but end up in your cue for some reason that are excellent- this is one of those.
½ January 15, 2014
Eric Lartigau's stylishly told story of a man who kills his wife's lover--and then impersonates the dead man. Surprisingly--our protagonist proves quite successful in his new life, more so than the dead man was. Reminiscent of Antonioni's The Passenger, and of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Another great job in the lead by France's hottest male actor (Romain Duris).
½ October 4, 2012
"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.
November 16, 2013
How come that such a clichéd plot is striking and smooth simultaneously is the elegance of the rapid exposure of events of the fluctuated selection for both round and flat characters? undergoing the burden of the rough leading path to a rewarding climax. A mix of Volver and Unfaithful, yet a complexity of many lessons is never less than these scrambled words. A new level of an intensity unfelt before rattles the very exquisite taste of a viewer. Still, sounds acquainting a scenic projection add up to the overall beauty of the art work. But again, babbling about this roll is as much important as viewing.
October 8, 2013
So it wasn't until he "changed" his life (no spoiler)...that this movie "got" my attention
September 25, 2013
When I found out the official French title of this film ("The Man Who Wanted to Live His Life") everything clicked (no photography pun intended) for me. "The Big Picture" is a horrible English title for this film. Venting aside, Romain Duris does a great job of embodying his character, who is caught between old and new realities. Is the life you want really the life you expect? How much control do you have over your life, or is it simply a succession of choices and their consequences?
April 28, 2013
Solid performances with great direction.
March 24, 2013
Brilliant acting. No matter whom you pretend to be, you will always remain who you are. Which is not the worst constellation.
½ January 4, 2013
Romain Duris makes this movie completely magnificent!
February 6, 2013
Marvelous film--endlessly beautiful, surprising, thoughtful. I've been taken aback at the impressions of other reviewers, who seem uniformly not to have taken note of, well, some finer-grained detail of the characters and their situations. Sarah for me is hardly a sympathetic character, for instance--she's a woman who's not content with her life or marriage, fine. But she's also incredibly self-absorbed and refuses to take any responsibility for her own life, instead placing the entire blame for her dissatisfaction on her husband. Who, yes, as HAS been repeatedly pointed out, is not that content with how his life has turned out, either, BUT has assumed adult responsibilities for providing for a family, at the cost of his own creative (and extremely talented) alternatives. He has worked very hard to provide for her and for their children he adores, provide an exceptionally comfortable life, including a nanny, so that Sarah does not have to sacrifice all her dreams, too--and yet she's abandoning her alleged writing career and telling him it's all his fault. Please.

And then there's the good friend Greg, who not only has an affair with Paul's Sarah, but taunts Paul--once Paul has found out--with the fact that HE never gave up photography and "sold out." Well, duh: in the first place he didn't have much to sell out (as Bartholomé comments later in the film, and the audience sees for itself the very mediocre work that he does); in the second Paul's parents didn't die and leave him a big comfortable house in a ritzy neighborhood, nor did Greg ever marry and start a family. Too much responsibility, that might mean growing up. His nastiness sounds as if it stems from envy and resentment of Paul--just as the affair, a fling he treats as disrespectfully as he does Paul, probably has.

Through the unfortunate accident that ensues, we watch Paul dismantle his own life (leaving his family well-provided for, yet again). The poignancy is deep, of his finally, ironically, having the freedom to flourish in what he loves and is so good at--but not the freedom, ultimately, to enjoy it for long because he's TOO good at it, and can't avoid the recognition it brings him. The only things in his life he loves as much are his children, and in the end it appears he's had to forfeit them all.
December 16, 2012
A French thriller that is entertaining almost up to the end but then leaves you feeling as frustrated as the lead character who through an ironic twist must find a new identity and continue running. It also leaves you with the nagging question of why someone so smart and talented would dig his own grave. Catherine Deneuve's appearance went completely over my head but this speaks more to the superficiality of her character's part in the story. Sadly it seems more of a gimmick to get a former star on the payroll.
December 9, 2012
Paul Exban has it all - successful career, a beautiful wife, two beautiful kids. He's about to become boss of the company he works for. And yet there is an unsatisfied itch: he wants to be a photographer but never has the time. He's friends with a photographer. Then he discovers his wife is sleeping with this other photographer: his life enters freefall, and at his lowest ebb decides to confront the man who slept with his wife. Of course the man dies, but not how you expect - but it's what happens next that makes the picture. Paul Exban assumes the man's identity, disposes of his body, and flees the country, to assume a new life as a photographer on the Adriatic coast.

Based on an early novel by Douglas Kennedy, The Big Picture contains some big names of French cinema: Romain Duris, Marina Foïs, Niels Arestrup and Catherine Deneuve, the latter wasted in a few short scenes. Handsomely shot by Eric Lartigau, with some wonderful location work, and great cinematography. For a film about photography it needed to be visual handsome.

Where the film fails is in its implausibility, especially towards the end of the film: details of which I won't go into as they would spoil your enjoyment of it. These implausibility's do not undermine the movie entirely, but they do corrupt some of the good work done so far. Also, it is worth noting that the shadow of Alfred Hitchcock hangs over this film - I think because of its subject matter - and when you realise that, it's only a small step to wondering how Hitchcock would have handled it. I think there is a better film to be made concerning the middle third of the film - as Paul assumes his new identity, it is fraught with risk, and Lartigau throws much of it away with just a few simple visuals that deny the tension.

In all, this is not a poor picture - it is a solid psychological thriller, mostly well told, with a fantastic central performance from Roman Duris. It is a frustrating film, though, as one can see the better material hanging at the edges, trying to take centre-frame, but never doing so.
October 21, 2012
Remarkable depiction of a successful young lawyer's struggle with the definition of what it is to be âa man.â? The moment life's linchpin unleashes it's worst, Paul Exben finds himself at a cross-roads. Forcing his inner good boy aside he charts a daring new course for himself, at the expense of those who love him deeply, and those who have hurt him deeply. Wheels are set in motion - crunchy, steely, seemingly incompatible wheels begin to churn, very slowly at first, until they grind out a powerful new rhythm and energy, propelling our protagonist from the constraints of a former life to the peculiar position of looking back on himself as though he were watching an acquaintance through a shop window. The tension this movie doles out so very prudently mounts and mounts to an almost unbearable degree. And although creative license supplants the realm of possibility from time to time, we let it slide. Because in spite of his carrying out the unthinkable, we can't help but yearn, with undeniable empathy and thrilling vicariousness, for passion and courage to prevail. Personified by our anti-hero, Paul Exben.
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