A scene from writer-director Guillaume Canet's "Little white… (MPI Media )
Vacations invariably lose something in the telling. That's especially so for "Little White Lies," which gathers some of France's best-known actors for the laughter-and-tears story of a group holiday. With an ensemble led by Marion Cotillard and François Cluzet, the French hit has personality to burn, and squanders most of it.
Writer-director Guillaume Canet's episodic mix of heavy-handed drama, broad comedy and "fun stuff you do by the sea," as one character describes the getaway, has its effective moments but overstays its welcome by a long shot.
Aiming for coming-of-middle-age resonance, the starry soap concerns a Parisian clique's annual summer sojourn in the coastal resort of Cap Ferret. They're the usual movie-colorful mix of professionals, from actor to anthropologist, and are facing various romantic/existential crises.
The group's most intriguing member — played by Jean Dujardin in a variation on his pre-"Artist" bad-boy mode — spends most of the film offscreen, in intensive care after an accident. At its most obvious, the "Big Chill"-esque brush with mortality becomes mawkishly indulgent. Mainly, though, it's gratuitous, barely grazing the self-absorbed vacationers.
As commitment-wary best friends, Gilles Lellouche and Cotillard, who delivers a lovely, unfussy performance, play the only characters who aren't one-note. Cluzet ("The Intouchables") gets two speeds for his single dimension: uptight fuming and homophobic panic, the latter an unfortunate running gag, spurred by a confession from his unhappily married chiropractor (Benoît Magimel).
After the narrative precision required for "Tell No One," Canet might have welcomed a looser approach. But two and a half hours is an absurdly bloated running time for such a trifle. It's not a trip to remember.
"Little White Lies." No MPAA rating; in French with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 34 minutes. At the Landmark, West Los Angeles.