The reasons to see Little White Lies are myriad. Namely they are: Jean Dujardin, Marion Cotillard, Francois Cluzet and director Guillaume Canet, who between them have been responsible for some of the more memorable French AND American performances/movies of the last half a decade (from Tell No One to La Vie En Rose to The Artist to The Intouchables). Add a Big Chill-style story, a pretty irresistible soundtrack, and several bohemian-yet-glamorous settings and it all adds up to a movie you, at least on paper, want to spend some time with.
The warning signs not to see Little White Lies are quite as widespread. The movie was initially released in France in 2010 and didn’t secure US Distribution until this year when the cast members had Oscars and numerous Christopher Nolan tortured hero blockbusters under their belts. The movie is also 2.5 hours (and 4 minutes on top of that) long. That is A LONG time to spend in the company of questionably nice people (as comparison, this week’s Bachelorette – a different take on friendship in peril clocks in at less that 1.5 hours). And in 2012, existential problems tend to be of the more existential variety, and the bohemian-yet-glamorous take on those tends to be a little jarring to the average film goer.
Now, it is up to you to decide whether the PROs outweigh the CONs.
The movie, it should be said, opens as winningly as any movie I’ve seen of late: we see Dujardin, in perfect Dujardin mode, carousing around a bar, smiling his vulpine smile, being the man you want to carouse with. He’s stylish, a little on the loose cannon side, always a guarantee of a good time, if slightly dangerous time. Then, just as quickly as your ill-advised crush on him deepens, he gets out of the club and faced with the cold, harsh reality. He gets promptly into a deadly accident, so his handsome features swollen, his able body broken. His friends worried and rallying, but not for long.
It turns out they have a vacation to go to and, apparently, the near death state of one of them is not going to prevent them from going on it. So the batch of them, all grown-up enough to maybe know better, all saddled with their issues, meet at the vacation home of Cluzet (the oldest, angriest one of them all) and proceed to eat, drink, judge, and wish-they-were-not-being-judged together.
The gang involves men and women, but focuses mainly on the male universe, with the exception of Cotillard’s Marie. She’s a bisexual anthropologist who is, essentially, a poster-child for the French manic-pixie-girl grown up. On top of her, we have Cluzet’s frustrated restaurateur, Benoit Magimel as Cluzet’s best friend, married with kids, who may or may not be romantically in love with Cluzet, Gilles Lalouche as an actor with fidelity problems and… well, you get the picture. The Big Chill with not-quite-a-dead-body set-up supposes that what these people need is a shake-up, something to put things into perspective for them, and one of them almost dying may just be what the doctor ordered for them to face their lies face on.
The performances in the movie are more than capable. They’re even lovely at times (Canet himself is a long-time actor and obviously knows how to be both subtle and effective with his cast) and the scenery is to die for, photographed accordingly. The French is coastline sprinkled with oyster farms and tables are set for long, wine infused dinners al fresco. It’s a perfectly pretty back-drop for all their ugly to show.
The movie is never dull but still, at the end of the road, you are spending 2.5 hours with a bunch of whiners. Even if they are handsome, talented, Academy Award winning whiners, some of us may not want to sign up for this kind of dinner party. But then, how we choose our friends is a highly subjective, non-empirical process. Maybe these ARE the people you’ve been waiting to hang out with on the big screen for a while. In which case, the orderly line for Bethesda Row’s Landmark Cinema should start forming right here.