Guillaume Canet, one of the most popular actors in France and the filmmaker responsible for the international hit thriller Tell No One and the very funny, quirky, and intelligent comedy satire Whatever You Say has come a cropper with his latest offering, LITTLE WHITE LIES. Not that there isn't plenty to admire in this ensemble piece about a band of successful French 30-somethings (with their leaders a decade or so older) spending time together at the beach and summer home of one of their wealthier members. But most of the admiration goes to the performances of the actors -- all of which are expert and riveting.
OSS movies and then in his (perhaps a tad premature) "Oscar" winning role. Both these characters have had him acting in quotes, as it were, in performances that demanded a kind of built-in comment on the actual performance underneath (if this makes any sense to you). Dujardin does this kind of thing very well indeed, but how I finally longed to see him simply act in a more everyday sort of role. Now, we finally can. Except that he's barely there -- before he's not. (But first he's in some heavy-duty prosthetics and make-up that may put you in mind of Lon Chaney's peak years.)
Marion Cotillard (above) and Gilles Lellouche (below, right) are two actors we're seeing more often of late, and both do themselves proud in their roles here, as friends with love problems of their own. How they handle them makes for fun, sadness and eventually a certain degree of self-realization.
François Cluzet, below, whom M. Canet in Tell No One helped set back on a path to lasting stardom. I've never seen Cluzet less than terrific, and he comes through once again as a powerful man who's used to having his own way and can get pretty nasty when things go wrong. During this particular vacation things go very wrong.
Laurent Lafitte, below, makes quite an impression as the lovesick dolt who must share every unexceptional moment of that sickness with all of his friends. Lafitte is very funny, with just enough of hangdog pout to make you care for him a bit (he's cute, too, with a tall, rangy body, and Meditteranean dark eyes and full lips).
Valérie Bonneton, Pascale Arbillot, Anne Marivin and Louise Monot (shown three photos above, with Lellouch) -- are also quite good. (Canet writes some excellent dialog that his cast goes after like hungry dogs.)
Joël Dupuch, above. This actor is the one saddled with "the big speech" -- an opportunity that underscores the fact that Canet does not quite yet understand that movies list toward the "show" rather than the "tell." Instead, the screenwriter has Dupuch spelling everything out for his little group: who they are, what they've been doing and why it's so wrong. Lesson learned!
James Gray. We look forward.
MPI Pictures, opens tomorrow, Friday, August 24, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and in Los Angeles at The Landmark -- with other cities in the offing, I hope (though I can't find any trace of them on the MPI site).