prior to making what is sure to be one of the most attractive babies ever conceived together, marion cotillard and guillaume canet made little white lies (les petits mouchoirs – check out the trailer here): a film in where the commonstance french greeting, ça va? [how are you?/how’s it going?], is uttered countless times, but rarely ever with sincerity or genuine concern. or so the film suggests.
after a headspinning opening featuring party animal ludo [jean dujardin] takin’ more than just women’s names, the film shifts focus to his group of close friends, who must decide whether they can take their bougie summer vacation in his absence. the group, headed by french-dustin-hoffman max [françois cluzet], a neurotically hinged hospo man, do not see a second complication arising when french-jeremy-renner vincent [benoît magimel] privately – and riotously awkwardly – confronts max with his own deep attraction toward him.
once on its way into the sunshine-soaked southern france setting for their vacation, little white lies progresses like a symphony of little arcs at turns hilarious, heartfelt, and true; each folding a new crease into its 2½ hours of ensemble delight. forget the common criticism of the film’s laborious length when it’s this entertaining; and forget the uneasy feeling you’ll have (or at least i did) near the start that the characters will border on caricature. as it progresses, all the quirks and neuroses of this oddball pseudo-family develop excellently into emotionally resonant endgames.
in a slew of wonderful performances really running the tonal gamut, it’s magimel and cotillard (as ludo’s once-girl, marie) who stand out with graceful turns full of empathy and restraint. but it becomes obvious, particularly toward the end, that lesser known joël dupuch as jean-louis is the film’s big, thumping heart – and in the end it is Heart, capital H, with which little white lies is so abundant.
les petits mouchoirs was seen at melbourne’s alliance française french film festival, which runs through til march 27.