Title: LITTLE WHITE LIES (Les petits mouchoirs)
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten
Director: Guillaume Canet
Screenwriter: Guillaume Canet
Cast: François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoit Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Jean Dujardin, Laurent Lafitte, Velerie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 8/8/12
Opens: August 24, 2012
The most shattering climax in the movies this year is not Aaron Cross’s motorcycle chase in “The Bourne Legacy.” Words often have more impact than mere physical mayhem. Points of greatest blockbuster tension can speed the heart and raise the blood pressure, but they rarely draw intentional laughter or tears from an audience. In “Little White Lies,” written and directed by Guillaume Canet (whose “La vie meilleure” deals with the downward spiral that crushes a cook and a waitress who fall in love and decide to open a restaurant), a group of seven friends who take their one-month’s summer vacation together at a beach discover that people who respond, “Oh, yes, my summer vacation was great—no problems!” are often telling little white lies. More pointedly, “Little White Lies” is inhabited by people who are lying to themselves.
While it seems difficult for people who do not work on Israeli kibbutzim to imagine going with the same pals to the same place summer after summer, that this is an ideal way to grow and add depth your lives, who’s talking about growth? Since the seven people, whose average age is forty, are not high-school students about to meet chain-saw killers at a remote lodge, what passes among them is far less violent though far from sedate. Despite longueurs particularly in the mid-section—inevitable in a two and one-half pic that is largely talk—and the French know how to talk—Canet’s take on this insular group of mostly professional men and women is of universal interest.
As photographer Christophe Offenstein captures their expressions, which reflect the full spectrum of emotions, these friends irritate one another with their flaws, but inevitably most will be hanging out with one another for the next ten or twenty summers. Choppily edited by Hervé de Luze (love that first name), which makes the film come across disjointed at times, “Little White Lies” hones in on the ensemble, each with particular traits and idiosyncracies. As the story opens during a wild early morning in a Paris club, Ludo (Jean Jardin, star of the inimitable “The Artist”) gets hit by a truck on his way home, landing him in critical condition in one of the city’s hospitals. His pals debate whether to spend time daily visiting the patient but decide that the show must go on, so à la plage. In one of the movie’s best comic, yet poignant moments, Vincent (Benoit Magimel), a married chiropractor who insists that he is not “queer,” confesses his passion for the older Max (François Cluzet), whose beach properties are those used by the group. Max explodes, as he does at almost every moment he appears, and for reasons as dissimilar as warding off an attack of weasels and chewing out a six-year-old for cheating in a game. The best moments, however, are owned by Marie (Marion Cotillard), who has bedded all the males in the group and then some save one Eric (Gilles Lellouche), who pines for a Bordeaux woman who has rejected him, and probably Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), a 35-year-old who likewise has a failed relationship.
The white lies of the title come from the French name of the film, “Les petits mouchoirs,” literally “the small handkerchiefs,” referring to the expression “le mettre dans la poche avec le mouchoir par dessus,” meaning “to put something in your pocket with your handerchief on top of it.” Use your handkerchief to keep something hidden. “Little White Lies” is France’s more than competent answer to Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 film “The Big Chill.”
Unrated 154 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B