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Short Takes: Little White Lies

By Laura Kern

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For his third feature as director, French hotshot multi-hyphenate Guillaume Canet has a go at the sadly sparse subgenre of the friendship comedy-drama, à la The Big Chill. But because his cast of characters is composed of selfish, boring people doing selfish, boring things, Little White Lies is less a portrait of the poignance and beauty of lasting, mostly platonic relationships than a lesson in how to be a shitty friend.

In this model, the member of the tight-knit group responsible for setting off the others’ collective mourning—party guy Ludo (a wasted Jean Dujardin) who suffers a near-fatal collision while riding his motorcycle—is left alone in his hospital room to rot while his best buds go off on their annual two-week seaside vacation. But their tears are mostly shed over their own personal discontentments and regrets, rather than Ludo, who receives only the occasional pop-in visit or phone call.

The motivations of these stereotype-ridden characters, much less the connections between them, are so muted it’s impossible to determine if they’re everyday flawed individuals struggling to transcend difficult times or just bad people. It’s certainly not genuine feeling that drives the (forced) emotion and (desperate) tear-jerking of the film—music takes care of that. Ultimately, the abundant soundtrack, full of soulful English-language songs old and new, is a keeper; the overlong film, with uncharacteristically soulless performances by an impressive ensemble of top French actors, is not.

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