LITTLE WHITE LIES (LES PETITS MOUCHOIRS) Director: Guillaume Canet Stars: Marion Cotillard, Francois Cluzet, Benoit Magimel Running time: 2 hours, 34 minutes
A group of friends on holiday together confronts love and death and everything in between in Little White Lies, a film that plays a bit too much like a French version of The Big Chill.
Of course, The Big Chill (1983) was released a generation ago, so maybe not that many people will notice.
Little White Lies begins with a visually impressive sequence and a friend in peril, and we first meet the players as they gather around their buddy's hospital bed. Marie (Marion Cotillard) is the distraught ex-girlfriend; Vincent (Benoit Magimel) is a married chiropractor with one young son; Max (Francois Cluzet), also married with kids, is a successful if uptight restaurant owner; Eric (Gilles Lellouche) is an actor and Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) is a broken-hearted goof who can't let go of a former flame.
The group of lifelong friends, some with spouses in tow, quickly decides that their buddy's tragedy should not interfere with their annual summer holiday. A compromise is reached: they'll go for only two weeks instead of a month. Since their friend is in intensive care and not really supposed to have visitors, that should work fine.
These are people in their 30s, so youth is no excuse for their self-centered reasoning. Away they go to an idyllic stretch at Max's beautiful beach house, leaving their friend in hospital and their audience with serious reservations about any of them. (One of the film's biggest problems is that it never really gets you to care about these people, even though you're exposed to them for more than two hours.)
At the beach, several stories play out. Marie is established as independent, emotionally unencumbered and sexually emancipated; what will become of her! Eric is established as immature, vain and a serial cheater; what will become of him! Antoine is a lovelorn idiot; Vincent is a bit confused about his sexuality and Max is the unhappy recipient of Vincent's passionate interest; what will become of them!!! And so on and so forth. They become irritated with one another, as if the various social faces they've worn over the years will no longer suffice. (Poor Max gets stuck with comedic duties, freaking out over the way his summer house lawn is cut, freaking out over his late-rising guests, freaking out over weasels living under the roof. He's a fool. How foolish? His expensive boat is named 'Max'.)
There are sunny scenes of water sports, soccer games, lavish meals and general friendship. Fairly suddenly, in the third act, darker emotions circle the narrative. You won't be more than mildly interested, but Little White Lies has such a stellar cast that it's not a hardship to keep watching.
Little White Lies is the second movie from actor/filmmaker Guillaume Canet, whose terrific directorial debut, Tell No One, is a hard act to follow. The movie is in French with English subtitles.