A Vacation Intervention
Guillaume Canet’s Little White Lies captures the essence of a family-friend vacation: an intimate gathering prodding group sociality through anger, laughter, tears, and love. It’s not a new concept, think back to the 1980’s Big Chill, but now add some Spanish beach, sun, and French flare along with another strong ensemble cast. Even in the lazy resort house to which they call home each year, life isn’t a summer breeze.
This, most notably, is because a thread in this group of friends breaks, both metaphorically and in actuality. Ludo (Jean Dujardin), in a surprising opening scene, finds himself near death and in the intensive care unit of the hospital, sending shockwaves to his close-knitters ready to embark on their annual getaway. Dujardin continues another silent role- the tying factor to everyone- and his signature eyebrows and lip curl are still pronounced underneath the scars and bloated sores. The family travels anyway, an escape not to abandon but to add temporary levity to their shocked communal travesty. This line however becomes blurry.
The group dynamic is as such. Max (Francois Cluzet), the owner of this vacation house, is married and a restaurateur. He has a short temper and has a perfectionist mindset, displayed partially in his consuming anger with weasels that crawl between the house walls. Before the trip, he is confronted by Vincent (Benoit Magimel), also a married man, who explains that he is in love with Max, but claims he is not gay. Then there’s Eric (Gilles Lellouche), a free-spirited womanizer who happens to be in a relationship, simultaneously aiding Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) who has love trouble of his own, attempting to decode texts from a fleeting girlfriend. Marie (Marion Cotillard) is the emotional connector here, a bisexual independent insecure with her own relationships and trying to move past her former romance with the hospitalized Ludo.
Cotillard, among others, plays warm and gentle, sopping up several poignant moments of tears while demonstrating her acting prowess in softer shades of expression, seamlessly oscillating from smiling self-assurance to agitated confusion. It is fascinating watching these people interact with each other, expressing subtleties of rawer emotion within a public forum, always surrounded by each other, repressing their more polarizing wills that incrementally build to burst in comically, shockingly, revelatory outlets. Such is the case with Max, who curiously displays his newfound disdain for Vincent following his surprising confession. Max’s homophobic tendencies spill out in awkward bursts and poor settings, which then turn into group interventions, all at a moment’s notice.
Canet panders toward an intimate lens, capturing conversations and social gatherings with uncut closeness, contrasted with sweeping shots of the ocean. These are nostalgically set to American sound waves of Credence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin, songs that don’t have much purpose but to break silence and add flavor. At two and a half hours, surely time creeps over, but we have lived with these people. They aren’t shown to have learned fully who they are or what they have done, but there is a better understanding of themselves, which is a nice glimmer of hope.
In select theaters