A group of friends gather, in part to reminisce over one of their own who’s not among them. Along the way past hurts and loves are brought to the fore, but the group also shares good times and laughter, all set to a classic rock and R&B soundtrack. This is the plot for Little White Lies from French Director Guillaume Canet. While the film stands on its own in many ways, and provides some good insights into how adult friendships can change, it also struggles to find enough plot to justify its lengthy runtime.
Ludo (Jean Dujardin) is a hard partying man in his thirties. After a long night at a Paris club, he heads home on his motor scooter only to suffer a terrible accident on the way back. A group of his close friends, including sometime lover Marie (Marion Cotillard), are about to head for a month long vacation at the summer home of their friend Max (Francois Cluzet). With Ludo in the intensive care ward, the group decides to cut their vacation short, though they still plan to go. Max has his own worries too, since younger friend Vincent (Benoit Magimel) has suddenly professed feelings for his older friend, despite both being married. Max is terrifically unprepared for this information, and when Vincent and his family come along on the trip, along with the rest of the friends, Max is preoccupied, both by this news and his businesses. Friends Eric (Gilles Lellouche) and Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) also are dealing with their own love troubles, as Antoine’s dealing with a breakup he’s not quite over and Eric struggles to get his own feelings in order as he deals with what happened to his friend and his own failing relationship.
There’s likely going to be few movies that will look better than Little White Lies. It’s full of attractive people in one of the most attractive locales. Canet, who also writes the screenplay, knows, too which side his bread is buttered, and gives his more prominent actors, including Cotillard and Cluzet, some good scenes to play. Cotillard, in particular, slowly peels back layers of Marie, recently returned from an anthropological trip to South America. Marie seems like one of the most emotionally together members of the group, until the audience sees that there’s much, much more to her than previously thought. Cluzet’s performance is also interesting. As the money-man behind the friend’s activities, Max is obviously generous, but there’s also a part of him that likes to be sure his friends know who he is and what he’s doing for them. A fine supporting performance is also turned in by Joël Dupuch, as a local oyster fisherman who grew up with Max but stayed home, and who remains both close to and apart from the lives of these people from the city. Lellouche’s performance is also a highlight, since he’s playing a man who seems to know that he was overshadowed, at least somewhat, by his injured friend.
The film’s major fault, frankly, is its run time of 154 minutes and its lack of a plot capable of sustaining that length. Some films can sustain longer run times and feel like they’ve stuffed as much plot as they can into it. Little White Lies can’t really match that. Scenes seem to repeat themselves, or at the very least seem to take far longer than their emotional payoffs would seem to allow. The plotline involving Max and Vincent is initially handled fairly well, but Canet can’t seem to decide whether he wants to play it for comedy only or for drama, and he goes back to the well at least one time more than he needs to. The two men’s wives get major dramatic short shrift, especially Pascale Arbillot, who plays Vincent’s wife, Isabelle. She seems to have an interesting plot lining up where she’s growing somewhat wild in response to her husband’s frigidity around her, but this plotline seemingly gets abandoned, or, at the very least, isn’t explored fully. Antoine’s storyline also seems like it came from a different, less mature movie seemingly meant for teenagers.
Little White Lies looks great, and the performances are, on the whole, very good. Audiences will want to book their tickets to the south of France after getting home from the theater, but whether they remember the rest of the film fondly may be another question.