Title: Little White Lies
Director: Guillaume Canet
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Francois Cluzet, Benoit Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Laurent Lafitte, Jean Dujardin, Valerie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot
Finally arriving in American theaters almost two years after its Toronto Film Festival premiere, generational ensemble dramedy “Little White Lies,” from French filmmaker Guillaume Canet, proves itself a bloated, melodramatic and ultimately emotionally impenetrable affair. Centering around a collection of close-knit Parisian friends whose bonds are tested over the course of a summer holiday when one of their group is involved in a horrible automobile accident, the movie feels a bit like a French-flavored all-star tribute to Lawrence Kasdan, given the roster of notable performers, but its insights are meager and its whimsy too fleeting.
Leaving a nightclub in the wee hours of the morning on his motorcycle, Ludovic (Jean Dujardin) is struck by a truck. Coming to Ludovic’s side are his ex-girlfriend Marie (Marion Cotillard), a free-spirited anthropologist; hotelier Max (Francois Cluzet), beset by obsessive compulsions; general practitioner Vincent (Benoit Magimel), frustrated by a confusing new attraction; actor and womanizer Eric (Gilles Lellouche); and the neurotic and newly single Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), among others. While Ludo stays holed up in the hospital, his friends embark upon a shortened version of their big planned summer getaway. Revealed secrets and various tensions bubble to the surface, however, threatening to disrupt long-standing relationships.
If the free-floating narrative structure didn’t do so already, the soundtrack selections here (the movie opens with Jet, in what might best be described as an aural cautionary marker, and then works its way through nostalgic hits from the Isley Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, David Bowie, Nina Simone and others) mark “Little White Lies” as a Gallic stab at generational mid-life statement, a la “The Big Chill.” The problem here is that almost all the characters are so dislikable and/or emotionally stunted as to defy any sense of audience attachment. The swollen running time (154 minutes) certainly doesn’t help either — especially since “Little White Lies” doesn’t so much build toward revelation and character-revealing clarity as much as wallow in misanthropic set pieces. Individually these can be quite interesting, but taken in sum they prove a chore, and a deadly bore.
Canet, the writer-director of “Tell No One,” works best when laboring under more constraints, or with a tighter editorial focus. Here, he mostly squanders a cast full of French faces who have given breakthrough performances in movies big and small over the last several years — Cotillard in “Inception,” Cluzet in the international mega-hit “The Intouchables,” Dujardin in the Oscar-winning “The Artist,” and Lellouche in “Point Blank” and “Mesrine.” There’s a loose-limbed, jocular and moderately engaging vibe to many of their interactions, but moments both large and small ring false, undone by Canet’s indulgence of overplayed emotion.
Written by: Brent Simon