by Erika Zelis
“Little White Lies” is supposed to be a romantic comedy, but it isn’t very romantic, and it’s only partly funny. Luckily, the film stars an incredible group of French actors, including Marion Cotillard (“The Dark Knight Rises”) and the recent Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”).
Dujardin plays Ludo, a man who is left in critical condition after an accident on his motor scooter. Cotillard is Marie, his girlfriend who facilitates a group of friends to come visit him. These friends include Eric (Giles Lellouche), Ludo’s best friend who is struggling to connect with his girlfriend, and Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), whose girlfriend of eleven years has left him trying to decode her texts. The group also includes Vincent (Benoit Magimel), who has fallen in love with Max (Francois Cluzet), the group’s charmingly abrasive father figure.
Yet, none of the friends seem much concerned with Ludo, choosing to leave him alone in the I.C.U. in order to take a beach vacation. After all, the trip had been planned for a year.
It’s hard to consider these characters as anything but self-indulgent. Although each character is complex, and lives in a world of his or her own destruction, the selfish undertones are disheartening, and create for an unlikable gang of characters. Director Guillaume Canet also seems uninterested with developing his characters to any profound level—he only sees them as fragments. Just when a character takes action and attempts to resolve a personal issue, Canet immediately jumps to a different character.
The cast, however, handles the film with ease, successfully creating emotional bridges in such an empty script. The actors are all well seasoned and handle themselves with complexity and realism. Cotillard is headstrong as Marie, while Lellouche plays Eric with a gentle approach. Most impressive is Magimel, whose character is questionably gay, yet avoids any sort of stereotypes, and rather plays his character’s ambiguity with subtlety and maturity. Together, the actors create a natural sense of unconditional friendship, and all the love and laughter that comes from such a tight-knit group.
Unfortunately, “Little White Lies” is unfocused, and Canet is unable to select what he wants to show of this group of friends. The film is partly autobiographical and Canet wishes his audiences to appreciate the idiosyncrasies of his own group of friends in the same way that he does. He creates interesting characters, and is lucky to have such skilled actors, but the script is less of a film than it is a lengthy home video with cinematic qualities. Canet is so obsessed with minor, uninteresting details, that in turn the film is crowded with character quirks rather than any significant plot development.
Erika Zelis is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.