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Little White Lies(2010)
Every year, Max, a successful restaurant owner, and Véro, his eco-friendly wife invite a merry group of friends to their beautiful beach house to celebrate Antoine's birthday and kick-start the vacation. But, this year, before they all leave Paris, their buddy Ludo is hurt in a serious accident, which sets off a dramatic chain of reactions and emotional responses...
For more about Little White Lies and the Little White Lies Blu-ray release, see Little White Lies Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on February 6, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Gilles Lellouche, Benoit Magimel, Jean Dujardin, Laurent Lafitte
Director: Guillaume Canet
» See full cast & crew
Little White Lies Blu-ray Review
The French Chill
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, February 6, 2013
In the uninterrupted four-minute opening shot of Little White Lies, we follow the charismatic lounge lizard Ludo (The Artist's Jean Dujardin) as he exits a nightclub bathroom after an illicit rendezvous, dances through the crowd, passionately kisses a random woman, and then exits the joint—with a cigarette dangling from his lips—into the calm, early morning Paris streets, where he zooms off on his moped, flies recklessly through several intersections, and is out-of-nowhere broadsided by a speeding truck. It's a bravura sequence—somewhat reminiscent of the beginning of Boogie Nights—and it immediately sets up the world that the story's nouveau riche characters inhabit.
In the behind-the-scenes material for the film, writer/director Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) discusses wanting to make a movie about his generation, and judging from the finished product, I suspect he means affluent French thirty-to-forty-somethings, faux bohemians—fauxhemians?— with time and money to spare. But Canet is more out to criticize than celebrate, examining the ways the members of this privileged subset hide their fears and desires behind an artifice of wealth and good taste and social expectations. While his direction is not without its flaws, Canet has accomplished quite a feat here—he's made an enjoyable, non-superficial film about unenjoyable and extremely superficial people.
Canet introduces his enormous ensemble cast of French cinema all-stars around the badly injured Ludo's hospital bedside, where a group of longtime friends has gathered in concern. At the center of this gang is the rich, middle-aged hotelier and restauranteur Max Cantara (Dustin Hoffman look-a-like François Cluzet), married semi-happily to Véronique (Valérie Bonneton), a new age-y health food nut. There's also Marie (Marion Cotillard), Ludo's one- time flame, a bisexual anthropologist who splits her time between Paris and the Amazon, her struggling-to-be-platonic best friend, Eric (Gilles Lellouche)—a cocky TV actor and sex addict whose girlfriend has recently discovered his philandering—and the lovelorn Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), a dim puppy dog of a man who's currently unemployed and desperate to reunite with his ex. Rounding out the cadre is Max's chiropractor of fifteen years, the handsome, Jeremy Renner-esque Vincent (La Haine's Benoît Magimel) and his slightly older wife, Isabelle (Pascale Arbillot).
Outside the hospital, they all share a brief conversation about whether or not to postpone their annual group vacation to the seaside in deference to their brain damaged pal, whose injury seems as inconvenient to them as it is saddening. Striking a compromise, they opt to go away for only two weeks—instead of four—and plan to head back immediately if Ludo wakes up. The night before the trip, however, Vincent invites Max to dinner and drops an unexpected bombshell: "I think I love you. Straight up." Vincent swears he's not gay, or not entirely anyway—"It's only you," he says—but regardless, Max is flustered and unsure what to make of the admission, which hangs over their holiday like a dark cloud.
The long middle stretch of the film takes place on the picturesque Cap Ferrat, where Max owns a summer home and keeps the small yacht he only uses once a year. Distressed by Vincent's confession, Max channels his conflicted feelings into general grumpiness. He's bankrolling the whole trip for everyone in a show-offy gesture, but he becomes a pent-up tyrant as soon as they arrive, complaining about the state of the yard, worrying about tidal charts, and growing increasingly irritated with a family of weasels that's taken up residence inside the house. In one of the film's funniest diversions, Max storms into his bathroom with an ax and goes all Jack Nicholson-in-The Shining on the wall to find the rodents' nest, while the rest of the group stands awkwardly outside, their initial terror giving way to bursts of laughter.
The tone ebbs and flows from comedy to sadness to joy to dead serious confrontation. Marie and Eric wind up the sexual tension. The doofus Antoine receives a call from his ex during a boating lesson, freaks out on the throttle, and accidentally drives the craft onshore, smashing it into a truck. Isabelle enacts dirty fantasies in Second Life while her romantically disinterested husband snoozes in the other room. Of course, Max gives the coldest of shoulders to Vincent, and it's fitting that the two of them would get stuck on the yacht alone together for six hours when the tide goes out and leaves them stranded high and dry. The scene doesn't play out how you'd expect, though, and Canet wisely lets their issue simmer, saving their inevitable blow-up for the climax.
As the film's title implies, each of these friends masks his/her real feelings behind pleasantries and occasional flat-out untruths. To give some outside perspective and show what genuine communication can look like, Canet brings in two additional characters that function as a kind of chorus. The sudden appearance of Marie's go-to booty-call boyfriend, Franck (Maxim Nucci)—a singer/songwriter who wears his heart proudly on his sleeve—results in a revealing conversation about openness and authenticity. Later, an oyster farmer and an old friend of Max's—played by real-life oyster harvester and non-pro actor Joel Dupuch—illuminates the group's superficiality in one tragic, painfully blinding moment. There's redemption here, and though the denouement borders on too-sentimental, the sudden on-rush of emotion feels earned.
What doesn't necessarily seem earned is Canet's appropriation of American pop music from the 1960s—from The Band and The Isley Brothers to Creedence Clearwater—which seems slightly out of place, even if the director has acknowledged that the soundtrack is an homage to the film's key inspiration, 1983's similarly themed The Big Chill. And then there's the length. Get ready for it. This is a film you have to set aside some serious time to watch. At 154 minutes, Little White Lies is seemingly a good deal longer than it needs to be, but this does give it the languid pacing of a real two-week trip to the seaside, which was probably Canet's intent. We begin to feel we're on holiday with these characters—the sleepy mornings, the afternoons on the yacht, the tipsy dinners, the bickering—and we're ultimately left with that ready-but-not-quite-ready-for-it-to-end sense of post-vacation satisfaction.
Little White Lies Blu-ray, Video Quality
Little White Lies arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that seems true to source and generally looks quite strong. Shot on 35mm—with a chunky negative stock, from the looks of it—the film retains its grain structure and fidelity here, untouched by digital noise reduction or edge enhancement. Be aware that the grain is quite thick at times—especially during the darker nighttime scenes, where it takes on a heavy, spackled quality—and that this does inherently have an effect on the overall clarity. Between the film stock and occasionally slipping focus, the picture isn't often razor sharp, but closeups do typically display a decent amount of fine high definition detail in facial and clothing textures. From a normal viewing distance, though, on an average-sized screen, any softness is practically unnoticeable. What you will notice is the movie's bright, summery color palette, which is nicely reproduced here with warm highlights, good saturation, and balanced contrast. With room to spare on a dual-layer disc, I didn't spot any obvious compression or encode issues. No real concerns here.
Little White Lies Blu-ray, Audio Quality
For what's essentially a quiet, dialogue-centric drama, the film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is engaging and well-designed. While most of the activity is anchored in the front channels, the rears are utilized quite often for ambiance—nightclub noise, hospital hallway sounds, ocean-y atmospherics—and occasional directional effects. The mix is at its most intense when one of the many American pop songs kick in—from "Hang on Sloopy" to "The Weight"—filling every channel with tight, clear sound. Finally, dialogue is always clean, unmuffled, and easily understood. Especially for those of you who speak French. For those who don't, there are optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, in bright yellow lettering. Oh, and there's a French Linear PCM 2.0 stereo mixdown included on the disc too.
Little White Lies Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Little White Lies Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Basically the French equivalent of The Big Chill—by director Guillaume Canet's own admission—Little White Lies features a large ensemble cast of well-to-do thirty/forty-somethings, a nostalgic soundtrack of 1960s American pop music, and a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic examination of friendship under fire. A huge commercial success in its home country, the film should also appeal to stateside francophiles—if you watch a lot of French cinema, you'll recognize most of the actors—as well as anyone who enjoys long, involving dramas. MPI's Blu-ray release is slight on extras, but I'd still recommend a purchase here for anyone interested in the film.
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Little White Lies Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Little White Lies Gets U.S. Release Date (Updated) - January 30, 2013
MPI Home Video will release on Blu-ray director Guillaume Canet's Les petits mouchoirs a.k.a Little White Lies (2010), starring François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard and Benoît Magimel. The preliminary release date set by the distributors is February 5th.
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