MPI // 2010 // 154 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // February 18th, 2013
One thing friends can't escape is a few home truths.
In only three feature films, Guillaume Canet has turned from an impressive young actor to an even more impressive young director. His first film, Whatever You Say, was a strong debut about the film business while his follow-up, Tell No One, is one of the best thrillers that I've seen in years. For his third feature, Canet changes things up once again. Little White Lies has little in common with his previous films, except for as a display of his increasing talent.
After a wild night of partying and drugs, Ludo (Jean Dujardin, The Artist) rides home on his motorcycle when he is run down by a truck and arrives at the hospital with critical injuries. His friends come down see him; they cry and bemoan how this could have happened. Outside, though, they wonder whether they should stay in Paris or go on the vacation they've planned for months. Deciding that there's nothing they can do for him, they motor off to Bordeaux, to a palatial beach estate where they eat, laugh, and soon, start fighting. They've spent their lives lying to themselves and to each other, and now is the time for it all to come to the surface.
With a cast of this size and stature, one would expect that there would be some competition among the actors for center stage, but Canet keeps Little White Lies balanced with a measured approach to the story and hiring a cast who were nearly all friends in real life. That's especially important for a story about thirtysomethings on vacation and almost exclusively talking. In that way, the film has a whole lot in common with The Big Chill, with its big cast and story about the convergence of friends. Little White Lies is more believable on the whole than that movie, though, because of those preexisting relationships, which come through clearly in the final product.
The story begins on somewhat of a weird note, however. Ludo getting hit by the truck to open the film is one thing, but the decision right outside the hospital to head out on holiday is the only really unrealistic thing about the story. Because the framework of the story revolves around Ludo, though, and they had to get out to the beach somehow, I guess it was the only decision that could be made. It only gets better from there, though, as we start to learn about the characters and their relationships, which are very well written.
François Cluzet (Tell No One) plays Max, a womanizing and often unlikable elder of the group. Veronique (Valérie Bonneton, Summer Hours), his long-suffering wife, may or may not be aware of his extracurriculars, but must deal with his constant explosions. Vincent (Benoît Magimel, La Haine) is happily married to Isabelle (Pascale Arbillot, Let It Rain), but has recently started having romantic feelings toward Max. Eric (Gilles Lellouche, Mesrine: Killer Instinct) is in a relationship with a woman who couldn't come along, which is good for him because he always has his eyes on new beauties. With her gone, though, he starts to miss her deeply. Antoine (Laurent Lafitte, The Crimson Rivers) is in the opposite position, with him receiving texts from his girlfriend about how much she misses him, though he's having a lot of trouble figuring out how to take that. Marie (Marion Cottilard (Inception) wants to be in love, but she's terrified of commitment, though is thrilled when her guitarist boyfriend announces he's coming to visit.
That's a heck of an ensemble. Many of whom have worked together in the past on stage and screen and that familiarity comes across very clearly in the film. Canet has written a very solid script, but without the cast, it almost certainly wouldn't have seen such a level of success. Each understands his or her character and performs it perfectly without upstaging anybody else.
There are moments of joy and moments of pain, with little revelations and big emotions coming from everywhere. What there isn't, though, is an overriding philosophy about how these people, or people in general, are supposed to live. All of these characters are flawed, and some are much easier to like than others, but Canet makes them all very human. That's far more important to a movie like this than some kind of message, a trap which filmmakers fall into far too often and which Canet deftly avoids.
Little White Lies is most certainly a character driven film, and it is helped greatly by both the stunning beach locale and the well-used selection of popular music serving as its soundtrack. Selections include cuts by Gladys Knight, David Bowie, Credence Clearwater Revival, and many others, put in at perfectly apt moments to accentuate the emotion of each scene. Most of the time, I prefer a nicely composed score, but when the pop stuff gets done right, it really works.
MPI has delivered a very strong Blu-ray release for Little White Lies. The 2.35:1/1080p transfer looks gorgeous. Colors and contrast are nearly perfect, while black levels are nice and deep. The detail is excellent throughout the frame, making the seaside landscapes look absolutely gorgeous and making me really want to visit Bordeaux. The film is worth watching based on the scenery alone and the transfer does it great justice. The Master Audio track is excellent, as well, with nice clarity throughout the spectrum. The dialog, music, and sound effects all come through with strong differentiation, each holding its own and never out of balance. Technically, this is a very fine product.
Unfortunately, the only extra is an eight minute making-of piece that, really, is four even shorter pieces stacked together. They're very basic and not all that interesting, mostly just describing the relationship the cast had with each other and the basics of the film's conception. Aside from a trailer, that's all there is on the disc.
Guillaume Canet continues to show an immense talent behind the camera, displaying equal skill as a writer, a director, and someone who can work with actors. It's a hard character study done very well. It might be a little overlong, though if that's the worst thing I can say about it, we're doing pretty well. While Little White Lies will never be called the most exciting film in the world, it's exceptionally well-acted and beautiful on top of it. It's long, detailed, and demands attention, but worth every one of its 150 minutes. Highly recommended.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 154 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated