An updated version of Lawrence Kasdan’s 1984 baby-boomer hit “The Big Chill” a la francaise, “Little White Lies” follows a group of 30-something Parisians to their summer getaway after one of their crowd has been in a terrible accident. Chock full of popular French actors, including Marion Cottillard and Jean Dujardin from “The Artist,” and often looking like a Ralph Lauren photo shoot, the movie aims for the combination of humor and emotion that marked the iconic Kasdan film, going so far as to give it an American R&B soundtrack. Whether it’s too difficult for an American viewer to penetrate another culture or that baby-boom angst seems so 1980s, Guillaume Canet‘s “Little White Lies” feels stale and uninspired, an overly long ensemble dramedy that asks us to empathize with a bunch of cranky, annoyingly self-centered youngish adults.
The film begins when Ludo (Jean Dujardin) leaves a club at dawn on his motorcycle and is struck by a huge truck. His friends, including an old girlfriend Marie (Marion Cotillard) gather tearfully at his hospital bed, but quickly decide that it’s pointless to cancel their annual vacation at one of the party’s beach house at Cap Ferrat in southwest France. Out of regard to Ludo’s tenuous condition, however, they’ll cut their holiday short to two weeks.
As in the original film, the group is made up of an assortment of men and women, some married, some single, with the hint that several of them have been intimately involved over the years. To get things rolling, shy chiropractor Vincent (Benoit Magimel) confesses to Max (Francois Cluzet) — restaurateur and beach house owner — that he’s strangely drawn to him. He knows he’s not gay, Vincent avows, but he can’t help loving Max’s hands. The somewhat older Max is shocked and clearly uncomfortable, but the men decide to say no more about it. Max is the savvy businessman in the bunch and has the bullying qualities to prove it. He’s cut his restaurant staff in half, he brags, and as soon as he, his New Age-y wife, and his kids arrive at the beach house, he begins to scream at the gardener about the state of the lawn. Cluzet plays this guy as broadly as he can throughout, even though we know he’s an obnoxious jerk within minutes.