Thirty-year-old Emilie (Audrey Tautou) runs a hairdressing salon in Southern France and is concerned about her mother Maddy (Nathalie Baye), still suffering post-divorce blues four years later. Jean (Sami Boujila), who works for Emilie as a handyman-electrician, 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, anonymous letter. Emilie, unmoved by the letter at first, seizes on it as an opportunity to try and re-ignite her mother's heart.
Review by Louise Keller:
Good intentions are the drivers of this delightful French comedy in which love, lies and misunderstandings create deliciously funny situations. If you enjoyed Audrey Tautou in Pierre Salvadori's 2006 romantic comedy Priceless, you will warm to this film, which delivers a similarly complex web of deceit and misunderstandings as one little white lie compounds. With its atmospheric port town setting, cleverly constructed script and appealing performances, this is a case of beautiful lies, indeed.
The premise is set with eloquent precision, describing the secret passion that Sami Bouajila's versatile maintenance man, Jean, harbours for Tautou's hair salon owner Emilie Dandrieux. He watches her adoringly from afar, daring only to put poetic prose to paper anonymously. Like Jean in Priceless, Jean in Beautiful Lies is a dreamer who inadvertently becomes sucked into Émilie's well meaning plan. The plan concerns her mother Maddy (Nathalie Baye), who wants to wallow in sadness (and track pants) since her sculptor husband left her for a younger woman. Bouajila has a reticent charm and the script cleverly empowers him on one hand with his multi-lingual talents but counters it by his shyness and inability to tell Émilie the truth.
We rub our hands in glee when Émilie retypes Jean's flowery letter of longing, addressing it to Maddy in the hope that it will rekindle her zest for living. However, expectations are raised but cannot be delivered.
The irresistible Tautou is the epitome of femininity as she flashes her huge brown eyes and tries to manage the increasingly farcical situation impacting on her business, her mother's wellbeing and her relationship with Jean. Baye is wonderful as the susceptible Maddy, who eagerly pounces on poor Jean. There are some lovely additional touches like the character construct of Paulette (Judith Chemla), the ultra shy and serious receptionist whose face is an open book.
The plot happily twists and turns and the journey offers loads of fun, as each situation becomes more hilarious than the last. Good entertainment.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With a different take on the love triangle, Pierre Salvadori's entertaining romantic comedy driven by the device of an anonymous letter has a farcical touch, and the French do that genre well. It's more subtle than standard gauge French farce, but it's just as dependent on timing: timing in performance and timing in structure.
Audrey Tautou again (after their collaboration on Priceless) excels in Salvadori's hands as the naughty girl with a good heart who manages to make a mess of it as she tries to do the right thing by her mother. The story of her mistaken meddling in her mother's affairs of the heart is a classic case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
Sami Boujila is magnificent as Jean, a highly educated, multilingual guy who has chosen to work manually as a way of avoiding stress. The scene where Tautou's Emilie finds out about his educational qualifications is a highlight.
Nathalie Baye as Maddy the mother is full of French sensuality and emotion; she's only 20 years or so older than her daughter, 10 years older than Jean, age differences that allow the story to resonate with enough credibility to work.
Of all the fine supports, the stand-out is Judith Chemla as Paulette, the young assistant at the salon on whose face we see and enjoy the variety of confused emotions she feels as she sees the often arresting repercussions of Emilie's deceit.
Brightly and cleverly directed by Salvadori as he swings us from elation to defeat and back again, Beautiful Lies is at its best when it focuses on the interaction of its key characters; Maddy v Emilie, Maddy v Jean, Emilie v Jean ... Tautou manages to convey the complexity of her emotional drivers without losing our sympathies (but comes close) as she wrings every last ounce of feeling out of the dialogue and scenario.
If you're in the mood for a rom-com, it might as well be one with the stamp of authenticity as only the French can manufacture it.
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BEAUTIFUL LIES (MA15+)
De vrais mensonges (aka Full Treatment)
CAST: Audrey Tautou, Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila, Stephanie Lagarde, Judith Chemla, Cecile Boland, Dider Brice, Daniel Duval
PRODUCER: Philippe Martin
DIRECTOR: Pierre Salvadori
SCRIPT: Pierre Salvadori, Benoit Graffin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gilles Henry
EDITOR: Isabelle Devinck
MUSIC: Philippe Eidel
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 21, 2011