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Review: Little White Lies 2

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- With his sequel to Little White Lies, Guillaume Canet puts his name to a film which works well from a comedic point of view, though its dramatic intentions don’t quite hit the mark

Review: Little White Lies 2
Joël Dupuch, Pascale Arbillot, Marion Cotillard, Gilles Lellouche, Laurent Lafitte, Clémentine Baert, François Cluzet, Benoît Magimel, Mikaël Wattincourt and Hocine Mérabet in Little White Lies 2

"Just because we were mates for twenty years doesn’t mean we still have to be now." An exploration of friendship caught in the whirlwind of life’s ups and downs forms the focus of Guillaume Canet’s latest work, which is the sequel to his hugely successful title, Little White Lies (5.4 million viewers in France and two César nominations in 2011). With Little White Lies 2, released on 1 May in French cinemas courtesy of Pathé (with EuropaCorp), we return to the same characters and pick up the story against the backdrop of Cap Ferret, which separates the Atlantic from the Bay of Arcachon. But eight years have passed since the end of the first chapter, which closed with the death of Ludo, and the different paths since travelled by Max (François Cluzet), Marie (Marion Cotillard), Éric (Gilles Lellouche), Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), Vincent (Benoît Magimel), Isabelle (Pascale Arbillot) and Véronique (Valérie Bonneton) have severely undermined the unity of this friendship group. 

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"What are you all doing here?", "You can’t stay here", "We don’t see each other anymore, our lives aren’t like they used to be. You dropped me out": Max shows little to no enthusiasm when his old group of friends suddenly turns up at his villa to celebrate his birthday; a group comprised of Marie (a single mother to a young son, and a non-stop boozer), Éric (now an in-demand filmmaker who arrives with a ten-month-old baby and a nanny in tow), Antoine (who’s still Éric’s assistant) and the former couple, Vincent (with his partner Alex, played by Mikaël Wattincourt) and Isabelle (loving life post-separation and a Tinder meet-up junkie). Also added to the mix are a handful of adolescents and Max’s new wife (following his divorce from Véronique), Sabine (Clémentine Baert), without forgetting one or two local figures (such as oyster farmer Joël Dupuch and New Age hippy Hocine Mérabet).

The whole group comes back together having not seen each other in three years, and this reunion sees Max teeter on the edge of a nervous breakdown - not only must he vacate the premises in two days’ time and hand it over to his ex, Véronique, he’s also harbouring a terrible secret: he’s broke. He has to sell the villa and an estate agent is already on the case, but “the problem is that they’re all attached to this house. It holds a lot of memories. 

Drink-fuelled soirées filled with dancing, either in nightclubs or back at the house (Éric hires another villa which everyone moves into, convincing them that it’s Max who’s footing the bill), a parachute jump, little asides, heart-to-hearts, arguments and reconciliations… While Max puts on an act, albeit a slightly over-emotional one ("I’m really touched to see you all again"), to try to mask his deep depression and the true cost of his failure ("right there in front of me was everything I’d lost: my wife, my house, my mates"), the others update one another on their lives, their relationships, their approach to raising children, etc.

Guillaume Canet films this mosaic with affection, and it’s a real success in terms of its comedic elements (driven by an unbridled François Cluzet). But the title is let down by a tendency towards over-dramatization, barely plausible sentimental developments, and an excessive number of musical scenes. The charisma of the cast saves the film from drowning; a film whose basic premise errs on the side of flimsy and which has needed to be artificially inflated in order to give something substantial to each and every one of the great many characters. But, ultimately, the vain desire that is explored in the movie - the desperation to return to the pleasures of the past, at all costs - shows something of the other side of friendship and turns the friendship movie genre on its head. In short, diehard fans of the cast won’t have any complaints.

Produced by Trésor Films, Little White Lies 2 was co-produced by M6 Films, Canéo Films, EuropaCorp, Les Productions du Trésor and by the Belgian groups Artémis Productions, Voo and Be TV. International sales are headed up by EuropaCorp.

(Translated from French)

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