LITTLE WHITE LIES – The Review
Review by Barbara Snitzer
Little White Lies (Les Petits Mouchoirs) is a uniquely French ensemble film that thinks it’s the Gallic version of The Big Chill. Those who love French films will be entertained, but I couldn’t get past one early improbable scene that buttresses one of several plot lines. Tant pis.
The movie follows a group of middle-aged friends who follow through on their vacation plans after one of them, Ludo (Jean Dujardin, who has about as many lines as he did in The Artist), is critically injured in a car crash. Their dilemma is very inconvenient and quickly resolved. They rationalize that a beachside toast to Ludo will have a greater net benefit than keeping vigil in Paris so off they go.
Regular fellow Movie Snobs know I don’t write book reports so I’m not going to break down each character and plot point. Suffice it to say that the group of friends are typical Parisian “bobos” (bourgeois and bohemian yuppies). They are wonderfully French in that the clique was formed by individuals rather than external status, which is my experience with Americans. The group is multi-generational; not everyone is at the same stage of relationship, and not everyone has children. The kids, by the way, are not left at home; they are made to feel welcome by all. I wonder if this is why they are better behaved than the brats I encounter at the mall….
However, the adults in this movie don’t behave all that well. The title refers to all the little moments in life wherein one lies inconsequentially to their friends as each of the main characters do. I think the director Guillaume Canet (husband of co-star Marion Cotillard) wants to encourage a discussion of morality: These characters all lie to their friends to maintain an image they believe they have cultivated with their friends. But this is a tight-knit group, so everyone sees through each other, yet they still lie, even when they are caught. Pourquoi?
I can’t answer that because I don’t lie to my friends (only family). I don’t think my lack of sympathy is due to a cultural gap (almost every show on Bravo shows people lying to each other while being filmed). My reaction though is consistent with the emotional dissonance I felt early on.
Vincent (Benoît Magimel) invites his friend Max (François Cluzet from The Intouchables) to dinner at Max’s hotel for a talk. They’ve been friends for fifteen years, and only recently Vincent has been feeling attracted to Max. Vincent assures Max that he’s not gay, who, understandably, is unconvinced. This was not a spontaneous confession one could blame on alcohol. This has been on Vincent’s mind for awhile.
Who does this? Homosexuality aside, when someone develops feelings for a friend who is unavailable, don’t they tell everyone but that person? What is the object of their affection supposed to do with this information? I have trouble believing that Vincent thought Max would reveal he felt the same way or that their friendship would not be forever changed. Vincent himself is married and believes getting married “too young” is justification for his feelings. Living a lie with another person is not a “little white lie.”
The emotional disconnect is echoed in the film’s incongruous soundtrack: late 60s American rock that screams ”This movie is just like The Big Chill!” I can suspend my cynicism to think the song choices (Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival) were blatant grabs for American ticket sales, but I don’t think this movie will come close to being the box office hit it was in France in 2010.
2 of 5 Stars
LITTLE WHITE LIES opens in St. Louis today at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Theater
Read more of Barbara’s review at her blog Le Movie Snob