Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Film review: Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies)

Writer: Guillaume Canet
Director: Guillaume Canet
Producer: Alain Attal
Cast: Francois Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoit Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Jean Dujardin, Laurent Lafitte, Velerie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot
Comedic Ensemble Drama
French with English subtitles
2 hours, 34 minutes

When Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies) had its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, the gala screening almost didn't take place. Director Guillaume Canet explained at the press conference that he arrived the morning of the premiere only to be told that there was a conflict with the subtitling format and so they couldn't screen it with the subtitles. Canet felt terrible, that is until Danny Boyle stepped in and offered to delay his screening of 127 Hours so that Canet could use his theatre which could play that particular format. They played it at the Roy Thomson Hall anyhow for those who understood French and didn't need subtitles. Everyone else marched over to the Scotiabank Theatre where Canet said they shared a wonderful experience and he went from being totally depressed to elated.

The film itself is a rollercoaster of sorts like that as well.The title of Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies) literally translates as "little hankies" or "little tissues" and there are a few moments where you'll want to have some handy. But for the most part, it's a very light and charming homage to The Big Chill and other ensemble reunion movies (Return of the Secaucus Seven, Peter's Friends, Festen).

It begins with a spectacular single tracking shot done in one take that sets up the whole story. A group of friends gather at the side of an injured friend. Normally they would all vacation together and it doesn't seem right to go without him, but they reluctantly decide to go ahead with their plans. Naturally, they all bring emotional baggage with them as well as the regular kind.

There is a lot to like about this film and it was a huge hit in France. The performances are mostly very strong from a very likeable cast. It isn't terribly original, but it isn't really trying to be. It evens uses a soundtrack of oldies hits like The Big Chill did almost three decades ago. It does feel flabby at a bloated running time of 2 hours and 34 minutes. But that's not a fatal flaw by any means.

This isn't a masterpiece, but then I didn't think The Big Chill was either. They're quite comparable and if you like the one then you'll probably like the other. It has the added benefit of being a feast for the eyes. You'll want to book that flight to France the first chance you get.

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