Summer holidays are lovely aren’t they? Sunning yourself on a beach, drinking and relaxing with friends. However, unfortunately for director Guillaume Canet, it turns out watching other people having a vacation isn’t quite as much fun – no matter how much angst and self-indulgent boohooing you can cram into 154 minutes.
Called Les petits mouchoirs (The Small Handkerchiefs) at home, the film was a runaway success at the French box-office, with Marion Cotillard (Canet’s real-life partner) starring alongside equally big names in the domestic cinema such as François Cluzet, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche and Valérie Bonneton. The excitement it generated can perhaps be attributed to its being the director’s follow-up to the 2006 international hit Tell No One. Though far from being another taut thriller, Little White Lies is an airy, surprisingly baggy, summer jaunt in the company of a smug group of affluent thritysomethings.
There is a measure of tension however, as this group of Parisians embark on their annual holiday in the shadow of a road accident which has left one of their number (the charismatic Ludo, Jean Dujardin) hospitalised and in critical condition. Their decision to take the trip, in spite of their friend’s near-death state, calls into question the strength of the friendship group and many home truths are eventually aired, with each character forced to confront their self-involved nature. There are tears, fist fights, boating mishaps and smashed crockery, all set to a cringing alt-rock soundtrack which never leaves you in any doubt as to what you are supposed to feel – undermining any potential the film might have to provoke genuine emotion. The film, which is nominally a romantic-comedy, wears its desire to be a poignant tear-jerker on its well-tailored sleeve and ends up being downright irksome.
It’s also far too long: there are too many stories being told for us to invest in all of them and the whole thing smacks of a director given relative free reign after a big hit – much like Peter Jackson’s bombastic, inflated 2005 remake of King Kong. Yet with some disciplined editing, Little White Lies could have been quite watchable. It’s unquestionably beautifully photographed by Christophe Offenstein (especially an early tracking shot through the streets of Paris at dawn which culminates in the aforementioned accident) and the actors, though confined to playing broad comic archetypes, acquit themselves well for the most part.
There is a naturalistic tone to much of it and an infectious spirit of friendship exists in many of the its improvised scenes. It is also fair to say that each character’s individual arc is interesting enough in small doses and there are several really strong individual moments – the best coming between Magimel’s repressed homosexual Vincent and his best friend Max, an uptight restaurateur played by the impressive Cluzet. Cotillard is also strong as kooky loner Marie, though many of the other female characters are less well drawn, reduced to stock tutting wives. I suppose, in an age where most cinema (especially romantic-comedy) is aimed at teenagers, Little White Lies should also be commended for being a rare film about grown-ups – even if many of them suffer from distinctly teenage anxieties.
With a film as mercilessly long as this you might be surprised to find that the Blu-Ray has no less than 54 minutes of deleted scenes. Admittedly that time includes introductions to each scene by Canet, which are actually pretty interesting as he explains why each was cut. However, it’s a strange and frightening prospect that this film could have been almost a whole hour longer. If even half of these deleted scenes were reinstated, a future director’s cut could be longer than The Thin Red Line. This must not happen.
The disc also includes a pretty nice 25 minute making of, which features contributions from every member of the ensemble cast as well as Canet and his producers. Here it’s revealed how much of the dialogue is loosely improvised by the actors, who really do convince as best friends even off set. Canet also spends a lot of time talking about how important his dreadful music choices are to each scene.
Other than that there’s a 5 minute gag reel, a 4 minute behind the scenes look at the filming of a surfing sequence and a half-hour extended version of the sentimental summer holiday video the characters themselves watch towards the end of the film.
Little White Lies is released today on Blu-Ray.
- 8 Actresses Who Tricked You Into Thinking You Saw Them Nude
- 11 Irresistible Movie Moments That Wore Out Your Pause Button
- 100 Things Wrong With The Dark Knight Rises [Video]
- 10 Scenes You Won't Believe You Missed in 2012
- 10 Most Infuriating Movie Cliffhangers
- 10 Major Plot Holes You Probably Missed
- 10 Happy Movie Endings That Probably Had Horrific Consequences
- 12 Ruthless Movie Villains Who Were Defeated By Complete Fools