Published May 26, 2011Opening in a trendy nightclub full of affluent 30something French socialites, Little White Lies tracks Ludo (Jean Dujardin) as he makes his way from one end to the other, joking about snorting cocaine, making out with a friend's girlfriend and eventually emerging into the morning light, where he hops on his scooter and rides down the street. After driving through a couple of intersections and over a bridge, Ludo is hit by a Mack truck, leaving him in critical condition. What's more is that this is all done in a single, impressively choreographed shot.
This lilting sense of ease and fluidity, peppered with irreverent humour, impropriety and morally questionable behaviour, interrupted by an unexpected dose of harsh reality, carries through the two-and-a-half-hour running time of this deeply absorbing French ensemble drama. As Ludo's closest friends justify the abandonment of their seriously injured friend to run off to Max's (Francois Cluzet) posh seaside country house, the titular lies and delusions create a sense of comfort and familiarity thinly masking repressed feelings, self-hatred and the reality of a close friend laying on his deathbed.
Promiscuous Marie (Marion Cotillard) careens through the days in a haze of marijuana, pretending her sexual liberation is a form of empowerment, while her similarly slutty best bud Eric (Gilles Lellouche) confronts the idea of commitment. Their sexual proclivities are mirrored by Vincent's (Benoit Magimel) repression, stuck in a passionless marriage to Isabelle (Pascale Arbillot) and pining after his similarly married best friend, Max.
These and other characters round out a very believable dynamic that's fostered by Canet's restrained directorial style, which is far more interested in capturing candid moments of characterization and idiosyncrasies than structuring each shot around a specific narrative purpose. As we get to know this group of vacationing friends through their various dinner parties, relationship analyses and ill-fated boat trips there is a sense of familiarity and identification even though each person isn't particularly likable.
And that's what works about Canet's often-hilarious and occasionally incisive follow-up to accessible thriller Tell No One: the characterizations and relationship dynamics complicated by the many lies these people tell each other and themselves. Ensemble dramas don't get much better than this. (Maple)