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I went to see Les Petits Mouchoirs yesterday and loved every minute of
it. And since there are 154 minutes of it, there is a whole lot to
love! Yes, this movie lasts for two and a half hours but it certainly
did not feel long to me at all.
I thought that the acting was very natural and the people were very real: wow, they even looked like normal people (except for Marion Cotillard who is out-of-this-world-beautiful); a feeling that I feel oftentimes is missing in Hollywood movies where only the dork is normal (= ugly) and the rest of the actors are nothing but overly gorgeous. Obviously some out of the ordinary circumstances occur - otherwise there would be no movie, would there? nobody wants to watch me go to work and do my groceries for two and a half hours - but the way the situations were dealt with made me feel like Les Petit Mouchoirs was a depiction of a slice of life. I laughed out loud on several occasions, but at the end also had a wet sleeve from drying my tears. And in that respect I feel very differently from one previous poster who feels that the acting was weak in the dramatic parts of the movie; I thought the acting was superb.
I definitely recommend this movie, I thought it was highly entertaining and an evening well-spent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A triumph at the French box-office despite the proper lynching it
received from home critics, Guillaume Canet's follow-up to the
also-incomprehensible hit Tell No One is the most depressingly Gallic
flick I've seen in years - and I'm french myself. Indeed, some have
said it's the defining movie of the Sarkozy era self-aggrandising,
hyperactive, bling bling and shallow.
Little White Lies (Les Petits Mouchoirs en Français) portrays a group of long-time friends in their late thirties taking their traditional summer holiday in Cap Ferret (an über-posh peninsula near Bordeaux) despite having one of their own lying on a hospital bed after a horrific road accident. Soon, everyone's dirty secrets and half-truths resurface as guilt creeps in, triggering a series of hysteric fits and embarrassing revelations. It's a classic premise for a comedy-drama, seen before in Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill: the death of a common friend as catharsis for collective existential crisis. It's the type of canvas that requires a bit of subtlety from the filmmaker not to turn into a melodramatic cringefest and restraint from the actors not to become an excuse to ham the s**t out of the patronising dialogue.
Instead, Canet decided to go for "SIN-CE-RI-TY" (his mantra during promo interviews), refusing to intellectualise his "most personal film to date" (translation: "I've been staring at my belly button for the last three years"). He shot on his favourite vacation spot and got his wife (Marion Cotillard, yes) and friends to play the main parts. Oh dear. He also decided not to bother editing: the film clocks in above the two and a half hour mark, while managing the extraordinary feat of feeling static while being all over the place in terms of location, narrative developments and story-arcs. Put simply, it's a mess. Did I also mention that every single character is either a self-absorbed bobo idiot floppy hair, Lacoste polos and flip flops with insufferable levels of Frenchness (no one kisses their friends that often) or a loud, hysterical woman?
Full review on permanentplastichelmet.com
Beautiful movie with topics and acting FAR ABOVE what we are used to get from the States (Hollywood). Most people in this movie of Canet are in their best years of their lives (and above the average if looking at their attractiveness)and meet on a holiday in Les Landes, south of France. Beautiful back ground music and (no French) songs coupled to nice realistic scenes of people which enjoy their holidays, but also have many disputes with their "friends". Acting is phenomenal!!All scenes within 2 and half hours watching are realistic and recognizable to the observer. The movie shows that people need each other to be able to have sex and make joy. If someone fells ill or is badly wounded as in this movie Ludo, he (or she) can shake it, because people tend to pay attention only to those which can offer them good company, joy or sex. Still there are some very friendly en good characters in this movie which offer people their attention without asking something in return. And off course the women in this movie are very forgiving to their more egoistic male partners, as is the case in real life.......
"Little White Lies" is a multi-relationship drama; one about love, loss
and life. It has witty situations, witty lines, and a near-fatal
accident. Oh yes, this is an attempt at the hard-to-write
comedy-tragedy genre. Thankfully, it doesn't really fail, but instead
of being overly comedic or tragic, it plays out mostly dramatically.
There are likely cultural differences to impact how the different audiences relate to this film. It opens with Ludo at a club, partying it up, kissing girls, doing drugs and then speeding through red lights just to get hit by a truck. Based on the other characters' actions and reactions, and other (French) descriptions I have read, Ludo is described as a guy who loves his friends and loves life, living every moment to the fullest. Whereas I would describe him as a guy with a death wish. Regardless, he is now in intensive care, but his friends still want to go on vacation.
Making these characters likable, navigating the comedy-tragedy structure, and all the while keeping us entertained, writer and director Guillaume Canet has set himself up with an almost impossible film to write well. But as a viewer, you just have to find one character you can relate to or empathize with. Everybody is friends so the others will just naturally fall into place.
For me, this film succeeded the most in making me feel as though I was part of the group. I laughed when they laughed, I cried when they cried, and I too just wanted to forget about life and hang out in the water. Because of that inclusion, I never felt too bored during the excessive two and a half hour run-time. But no relationship drama should ever be that long.
I'm going out on a limb and saying that Guillaume Canet is a young, French Woody Allen, or at least he has the potential to become a hopefully-still-young, French Woody Allen. "Little White Lies" is a dialogue-driven, beautifully shot exposé about modern relationships with fully developed characters. He hasn't yet mastered the fine balance between comedy and tragedy, or how to get to the point quickly, and I want him to cast himself, but hopefully I haven't placed unfair expectations onto him.
Each character is having their own personal crisis usually involving the fact that a former lover doesn't like them anymore. That misery coupled with Ludo's tragedy can lead to an awfully somber vacation, but I quite liked the fact that they had their fun during the day and then usually when the alcohol came out, so did the tears and anger. The lies eluded to in the title are more just obvious truths that are barely even concealed, but that doesn't make for nearly as catchy a title. Because these characters are just so well developed, there are always more truths to discover about them.
"Little White Lies" is for drama lovers. You will laugh and you will cry and if you are sure to find a character to connect to, then this film is worth discovering. Apparently France has long since known about the talent that is Canet, now might be the time for the rest of the world to discover him too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Little White Lies" goes a long way at 154 minutes, an incredibly
long way for so very little. At its most fundamental level, it's
about a group of people who come to realize at the most appropriate
time that they're more concerned about themselves than they are about
others, specifically their mutual friend, who lies in a hospital bed in
critical condition. But this discovery isn't made until the final five
minutes. Before then, all the lead characters are embroiled in
incidental relationship odysseys, all of which are examined at such a
distance that it's virtually impossible to become emotionally invested.
It doesn't help that the characters themselves aren't that well
developed; they're given plenty of dialogue and situations to work
their way through, but never once does it seem as if we're getting to
Kick starting the plot is a man named Ludo (Jean Dujardin), who exits a nightclub in Paris high on cocaine, drives away on his motorcycle, and is soon thereafter rammed by a truck. His friends soon hear about it and pay him a visit in the hospital, where of course they do and say the appropriate things. The visit ends, and although it's obvious that Ludo is fighting for his life, the friends decide that they should stick to their normal routine and take their annual two-week lakeside summer vacation. It isn't until the final act that they all watch one of their home movies, staring at Ludo and his larger-than-life antics nostalgically; that, coupled with a very predictable turn of events, finally awakens the friends to the fact that they aren't the most thoughtful of people and made a huge mistake going on this vacation.
These opening and closing segments are every bit as routine as they sound, but we can still give writer/director Guillaume Canet credit for having his heart in the right place. Unfortunately, both segments are separated by a long, meandering middle section devoted to subplots involving the personal lives of the friends. Apart from the fact that almost none of their stories have anything to do with the character of Ludo, most of them are coldly developed and disappointingly resolved. A vast majority of the relationship drama happens at the vacation home of Max (François Cluzet), a wealthy restaurateur so uptight and controlling that it's a wonder anyone would stay friends with him, let alone go on vacation with him annually. And don't get me started on the fact that his wife, Véro (Valérie Bonneton), can actually put up with him.
One of the subplots begins when Max's friend and personal chiropractor, Vincent (Benoît Magimel), admits to Max that his feelings for him have grown into a physical attraction. Vincent is aware that Max doesn't feel the same way, is apparently content with being only his friend, and remains tactful during the vacation. Max, on the other hand, becomes even more of a nervous wreck and is driven to extremes that are initially amusing but eventually become cruel. At the heart of the matter, of course, is that Vincent, a husband and father, is in denial about his homosexuality and had clearly not taken Max's mental state into consideration when deciding to join him at his summer home with his wife and children. It's a compelling idea, but the way this movie handles it, it's one of many subplots that doesn't get off to a great start and isn't allowed to go anywhere.
We meet an actor named Eric (Gilles Lellouche) and a young man named Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), both struggling in the romance department. The former is in a loudmouth and is well aware that he hasn't been able to commit and can't start now. Why then does he get so upset when his relationship with an opera singer named Lea (Louise Monot) suddenly ends? The latter is fixated on a mostly unseen woman named Juliette (Anne Marivin), who, despite her eleven-year relationship with Antoine, is engaged to another man. Antoine hangs on every text she sends him and is so annoyingly one-tracked that he has to tell everyone about them at all times. The biggest enigma is Marie (Marion Cotillard), whose dating dramas are so faintly alluded to that their inclusions are baffling. It's strongly suggested that she was an item with Ludo, yet she's briefly joined at the summer house by a handsome musician. And what are we to make of an early scene during Antoine's birthday party, where a woman enters the restaurant, has a few tense words with Marie, and then exits both the restaurant and the film?
The film, released in its native France in late 2010 but only now reaching American audiences, has been billed in part as a comedy. I'm not exactly sure why; there are one or two obviously funny sight gags, but on the whole, the lighter moments are so subtle and low key that they're likely to go completely over the heads of the audience. Of course, labeling it purely as a drama wouldn't have saved it from being slow and unrewarding. "Little White Lies" is well intentioned but terribly unsure of itself, spending far too much time on secondary vignettes and not enough time on the main story. Before the final act and the obligatory emotional resolution, there came a point at which I began to wonder why the Dujardin character was introduced at all. He was barely brought up during the two-hour middle section, which suggests the filmmakers were just as unmindful of him as his friends.
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When watching Carnet's third film, you'll be excused from drawing some obvious comparisons with the 1983 hit classic the Big Chill: not only the story of a group of friends gathering together for a holiday and ending up taking their skeletons out of the closets is a fairly familiar territory, but also the way the film itself is handled, with that mixture of comedy and drama and a constant (and most of the times fairly random) soundtrack of old American songs playing in the background. The film starts off with a spectacular piece of cinematic bravura: a one take wonder which serves as an introduction for the rest of the film (though I must confess it's so perfectly well choreographed that actually makes you expect the big surprise that's about to come). Unfortunately this perfectly well-timed sequence is a rather isolated example in an otherwise indulgent and over-long film. In fact, after the striking beginning it takes at least a good 30 minutes before the actual holiday (and the real film) starts. Thinking back at it, with hindsight, it would have been quite easy to cut all that part out and set it all up just during the holiday. It would have also brought the film down in length from those 154 minutes. Yes, the accident sequence was very good, but did we really need to see it ? But aside from few indulgences, once the film actually gets going it is a real delight. There are some individual very funny moments (the one where two friends get stranded on a boat gets my top marks ) and generally speaking the inter-relationship between all the various characters is beautifully portrayed and very well observed. Of course, the whole things couldn't be more French and, seen from the eyes of a foreigner, all the so-called clichés that you would expect from these sort of people seem to be there: from the hysterical dialogue, to the wine drinking, the talk about sex and to the fact that they could all end up in each other's bed and just when you think you've seen it all, a man shows up with a baguette under his arm (really!). However none of that takes anything away from the genuinely affecting drama that unfolds under your eyes. And just like in "the big chill", underneath the surface and all the laughs, there's an impending sense of nostalgia that permeates the atmosphere. All the performances are top-notch; so much so that they make real even some of the most far-fetched situations. These could be friends who spent most of their life knowing each other. François Cluzet, resembling more and more Dustin Hoffman, gets some of the best lines: his storyline about a man who's just been told by his best friend that he's in love with him, is probably the most original and definitely the most entertaining. Everything else is pretty standard for this sort of "re-union" films and yet perfectly enjoyable and very engaging. But while some of the characters work better than others, sadly it's the women that are most two-dimensional (with the single exception of Marion Cotillard) to the point that more than an hour into the film I was still not quite sure about how many where actually there. The film runs slightly out of steam towards the final act where the dialogue becomes more forced and a certain tendency to give every character a cathartic moment starts to creep in. The tearful drawn-out ending to the notes of Nina Simone's version of "My Way", however moving, was probably a step too far and where subtlety really went out of the window. On the whole it felt like a very personal film made by a director who should have been kept more on a leash by a more watchful producer. There's absolutely no excuse for a film of this kind to be so long! And yet, despite all its weaknesses I'm still giving it a thumb up. Would I watch it again? Definitely not. But I certainly did enjoy it the first time around
Let me start of by saying: Do not watch this because you want to see
Jean Dujardin! Since he won the Oscar a couple of months ago, I'm
pretty sure the demand on his movies has been increased. But this is
not a Dujardin vehicle. While his character is pivotal to the whole
story, he himself will not appear in it for a long period of time. I
didn't count the minutes, but his screen presence does not warrant you
to watch it for him alone.
Having said that, I do hope you watch it for what it is and all the other wonderful french actors that are in it. One of them being his "partner-in-crime" in his newest movie (L'Infidels). The story consists of every character having something inside them, wanting to burst out. Some are subtle about it and some are not. I think the character who is the loudest might feel to be the most annoying one, but the actor walks the fine line of still making him sympathetic enough for us to care. A really good drama, that will find it's audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Gosh I wished I'd taken the time to read some of these reviews and
particularly the one from Grinchkb who was right on the money.
Advertised here in Australia as a comedy we went off to the movies on a winters Sunday afternoon dreaming of a summery French movie with a few laughs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Entering a packed cinema my wife and I were seated about 5 seats apart. The cinema chain has initiated a new plan whereby if you don't like the film in the first 30 mins you can leave the cinema and they will give you passes for another film. I was so tempted yesterday to stand up and shout out "25 mins, whose leaving" Sadly I was in a middle row and good manners held me back.
Faults with this film.. where do you start? A lead actor Max who looks like a French version of Dustin Hoffman, some very strange characters, one guy somehow smitten with the godfather of his child. What a horrible mess this film is. And to make matters worse it runs for close on 3 hours.
Marion Coulthard and the summery setting is the lure here. I couldn't figure out her character nor many of the others. Already at the 30 min mark I'd lost interest. They are simply not characters you can warm to or take an interest in.
Take my advice... avoid this like the plague. It's lame.
Guillaume Canet creates films (Tell No One, Whatever You Say, J'peux
pas dormir..., Je taim) that though they are about love, loss and life,
they probe more deeply into the human condition than the glossy
entertaining surface can conceal. In the end all of his films demand
that the viewer connects to his concept of the flow of life and death
and those aspects of living that make a difference. Les petits
mouchoirs AKA Little White Lies magnifies these attributes. The story
is so conversationally written that for a while it is difficult to pull
together where the film is going, but by the end of the film the
audience is so choked by the discoveries revealed that tears and a
stunned afterburn are inevitable.
Every year, Max Cantara (François Cluzet), a successful restaurant owner, and Véronique (Valérie Bonneton), his eco-friendly wife invite a their close-knit circle of friends to their beautiful Cap Ferrat beach house near Bordeaux to celebrate the birthday of Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) and kick-start the vacation. But, this year, before they all leave Paris, their mutual friend Ludo (Jean Dujardin) is hurt in a serious motorcycle accident, ends up the ICU and as the doctors say nothing can be done to change things for at least two weeks, the friends all proceed with their plans for vacation: no one stays behind to be supportive of Ludo, not even his apparent love partner Marie (Marion Cotillard). This sets off a dramatic chain of reactions and emotional responses. The eagerly anticipated vacation leads each of the protagonists to raise the little veils that for years they have draped over what bothers and upsets them. Pretenses become increasingly hard to keep up. Until the moment when the truth finally catches up with them all: each member of the group of friends has a problem that needs the support of real friends but none of them has the ability to share personal secrets. There are many concepts that are present here - one married man Vincent (Benoît Magimel) has an inexplicable physical and emotional attraction to Max who loathes the idea of a possible gay liaison; Marie is visited by an infrequent lover Nassim (Hocine Mérabet), Eric (Gilles Lellouche) longs to be reunited with the woman who has found another, Jean Louis (Joël Dupuch) awaits messages from his emotionally distant Juliette (Anne Marivin) - and so on. Yet each of these little situations confound Antoine who cannot believe this group would not stay near their critically injured friend Ludo. The consequences are revealing and point out the importance of owning up to the truths that define a life. To reveal the ending would be a disservice to all who may see this little masterpiece.
The entire cast is of the highest caliber and Canet succeeds in getting brilliant performances from each. Though each actor is excellent, the performances by Benoît Magimel, Marion Cotillard and François Cluzet are exceptional. This is a thinking person's film but one that holds as much brilliant drama and impact as any film before us today. Grady Harp, February 13
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are very few lies, as there isn't much sophistication in this
disappointing art-house movie (I can't call this "film"). It shows the
dismal level of intellect modern French filmmakers possess. The movie
is about people talking and discussing things, yet the most complicated
philosophical concept in this movie is that "objects feel it when we
talk poorly about them". Other than that, it's such a standard fare,
without *any* twist or turn: somebody finds out she's pregnant, one boy
gets a girl, another boy loses a girl. Everybody cries. Period.
No, not yet! There is the long funeral scene at the end of the movie, full of cheap sentimentalism. Friends are saying good bye to Ludo. There are lots of tears and statements on how important, helpful, selfless, etc. this guy supposedly was for each person in the group. We, the audience, have a very short chance in the opening sequence of the movie to meet Ludo. He's partying in a night club, apparently on drugs; we see him french-kissing friend's girlfriend whom he just met (the kiss is not entirely consensual, by the way); then he snatches up whiskey from friend's glass; then he drives off and is seriously injured in the traffic accident. That's about it. How are we supposed to believe that this guy was the centerpiece of this middle-aged middle-class group? No way, I say. The funeral scene is so awkward, it is definitely done Hollywood-style, but without the mastery of the Hollywood foot soldiers who produce these tear-jerkers.
Then I have to mention that all songs in the movie are in English. This really takes away from the authenticity. One of the characters' little daughter can speak Spanish, and at one point in the movie mother catches her speaking too much Spanish to her liking, and instructs the daughter, in an abrupt (are we supposed to be alarmed?) manner, to speak French. All-English songs on top of this scene, and this made me wondering if the director is a neo-liberal freak on a political mission; Sarkozy's faithful soldier?
Where the movie earns its stars, is Max's character. He's painted very realistically, and with a great sense of humor! Especially the moments when he tries too hard to organize the friends, for their own good, are hilarious and ringing so true! If only other characters were as much relevant and coherent...but they are not.
In conclusion, this movie sets very low standard as to what European art-house film is. And while more and more films produced in Europe are as poorly made as this one, there are great films that pop up occasionally. Look for them! Elsewhere.
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