Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Little White Lies (2012) – Review

Review: Little White Lies (Les petits mouchoirs) is able to touch on almost every emotion as it utterly engages the audience. The film is about a group of friends that takes their annual vacation to the seaside minus one member of the group (Ludo), who was just gravely injured in a car accident. Emotions and tensions are high between the members of the group, as they both deal with the issues in their own lives and the sadness resulting from the state of their friend. Writer-director Guillaume Canet excels dramatically with this film, sculpting fantastic characters that draw the audience in. Ensemble films have multiple challenges – firstly, telling a cohesive story with enough character moments across a big cast to engage the audience and present fully fleshed out characters. Canet does this very effectively by economically giving enough about each character for the audience to completely understand them and where they are coming from. Every character is relatable and fully developed. Nothing feels forced or fake. None of the characters are there merely to forward the plot, which is very rare in ensemble dramas. Even the event of Ludo injuring himself is not what brings the characters together; rather it only heightens the emotional state of the narrative, Ludo’s scene at the beginning serving more as a prologue setting the tone. Thus, the audience completely enthralled with the characters, Canet’s narrative is able to be very funny and then very sad the next moment, dictating the emotions of the audience. The success of the characters is also due to the wonderful performances by the cast and the great writing. The script has a great familiarity to it, as if the audience has known these characters forever. There is also enough diversity among the character stories that each viewer will be able to at least latch on to one in particular, which is important to the narrative’s overall success (the audience really caring about the characters, or at least one specifically). Canet’s shooting style also pulls the audience in and makes them feel as if they were a member of the group with lots of medium shots that often have more than one character in the frame. If there is a weakness in the narrative, it is that the film is very much a slice of real everyday life and not more of an inflated journey. There is nothing wrong with dramas that explore average life, but for some audience members they have an uphill battle fully engaging them. The narrative journey of a character outside their comfort zone is usually the basis for a narrative, and this film does not seem to push these characters outside their normal lives, more so it deals with them addressing their issues. However, again, the skill of the actors and Canet elevate the narrative to be the very compelling piece that it is. Little White Lies is one of the better ensemble dramas in recent memory (similar to Magnolia, L’Auberge espagnole and The Barbarian Invasions).

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Guillaume Canet is a very good actor (as I very much enjoyed his work in Joyeux Noel, Farewell and Last Night), but is becoming an even better writer-director. Tell No One was a great mystery thriller, and Little White Lies is one of the best dramas of 2012 so far (in America at least, as this came out in 2010 in Europe). I am very much looking forward to his next film Blood Ties (his Hollywood debut). The film’s score, consisting mostly of American classic rock favorites, is brilliant and emotionally fits the tone perfectly, while also adding to what the characters feel on-screen. Cinematographer Christophe Offenstein and production designer Philippe Chiffre (both of whom worked on Canet’s last Tell No One) do fantastic work as well. The narrative is steeped in realism, and the design of the film contributes to that, while also filling in character information with the style of the wardrobe and the living space of each character. The photography also presents the narrative as a real life story, as the lighting is fairly straightforward. Yet, Offenstein’s work is also very beautiful, both in its ability to capture the actors’ faces but also the landscapes. The prologue with Ludo, shot entirely in one long take, is brilliant and one of the most artistically compelling cinematic moments of 2012, as well. The performances make the film, however. All the actors are great, but there are a few standouts. Jean Dujardin (coming off his breakthrough in America with The Artist) is wonderful as Ludo. That scene is completely vital and visceral as it energizes and ultimately shocks the audience. Gilles Lellouche and Laurent Lafitte are also very good, often lightening the mood, yet still carrying a lot of the dramatic weight. Benoit Magimel is great in the film as Vincent, a character who is struggling internally with the very question of who he is. He has to play most of it with his face and eyes, and does so very well. Marion Cotillard (as always) is fantastic, playing both comedy (her scene riding the raft is probably the funniest moment in the film) and drama very well. She can completely command the screen. Francois Cluzet steals the film, however. He gets to play more physical comedy and drama than the rest, but still has a deep humanity to his performance.

Summary & score: Ensemble dramas are often shallow peripherally engaging works, but Little White Lies has well developed characters and wholly captivating performances and drama. It is a great ensemble piece. 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment