Friday, July 22, 2011

New Release Review: Beautiful Lies (Pierre Salvadori, 2009)

Beautiful Lies continues the partnership between Audrey Tautou and Pierre Salvadori (Priceless and Apres Vous). It tells the story of 30-year-old Emilie (not to be confused with Amelie), played by Tautou, who runs a tight ship at her local hairdressing salon where she provides an endless stream of well-meaning advice to her clients and friends. The only person she cannot seem to help is her lonely, despondent mother, Maddie (Nathalie Baye), who has still not recovered from her husband leaving her for a younger woman four years earlier.

Jean (Sami Bouajila), a friendly Arab handyman who works for Emilie, is secretly in love with her but a pathological shyness prevents him from declaring his feelings. Finally, unable to contain himself, he opens his heart in a passionate and anonymous love letter. When Emilie opens the letter, her initial instinct is to throw it in the trash. The skeptical woman has a change of heart, however, when she realizes what such a sentiment would mean to her mother, typing a copy of the letter and forwarding it, along with several more.

Maddie circumstantially stumbles upon Jean, genuinely believing him to be the author. Obviously he is confused by her hyperactive advances, and Emilie’s doubly hurtful and thoughtful deed comes back to bite her. Along the way her independent relationships with Maddie and Jean turn ugly as she tries to remain undetected. She remains oblivious to Jean’s true feelings, selfishly using him to make her mother happy. When her initially suppressed feelings are awakened, mother and daughter find themselves in competition for the same man. 

The first problem is that Emilie is such an unlikable character, who never actually redeems herself for her behaviour. It is quite hard to accept Audrey Tautou playing such a curt, insensitive and selfish woman. She is similarly as romantically repressed as Tautou’s most famous role, Amelie Poulain. She dresses quirkily and works at a salon that has a host of zany characters coming and going. What this film evidently lacks is charm and instead possesses heavy-handed direction and a messy, contrived screenplay that leaves Jean as the sole redeemable character. Tautou has a dreadful haircut and sports a tattoo on her neck just to remind us that she is removed from the sweet, innocence of Amelie, despite her willful attempts to help the lives of others. We are then supposed to sympathize with her when she discovers how blind she was to Jean’s affections and how selfish she was as a result.

Audrey's face says it all...
Beautiful Lies soon becomes tedious and the ridiculous premise is stretched to maximum capacity, resulting in a bloated, long-winded offering with surprisingly few laughs. It would have been nearly bearable if it was at least fifteen minutes shorter, but there is barely enough material here to warrant a feature. It becomes nothing less than monotonous and the characters go places only an obscure French comedy could take them. The supporting cast are restricted to simpleminded caricatures and we soon grow very tired of Emilie’s self-inflicted torment. Not surprisingly, Maddie ends up helping her daughter; the woman with the more obvious issues, and the film culminates in an implausibly neat and inevitable conclusion after stumbling around for close to an hour. 

Beautiful Lies, despite the potentially amusing premise of having the mother and daughter falling for the same guy, never overcomes the hurdle of predictability and translates it into very little charm. Not even the lovely Tautou can save this one. Sure, it is light-hearted, easy viewing, but be warned, it is nowhere near as delightful as you might expect. 

My Rating: 2 Stars (D)

1 comment:

  1. I love Audrey Tautou as well. Don't like that haircut either.