Beautiful Lies Film Review

What’s in a letter?

For Audrey Tautou, France’s most beguiling export, it would seem to be everything and nothing.

Famous for her breakout role as Amelie, Tautou plays a hairdresser called Emilie in Pierre Salvadori’s new film Beautiful Lies.

Like another past character of hers with a similar name, it would seem Emelie has a habit of interfering in other people’s lives more than is healthy.

Emilie is joint owner of a fledgling salon in the south of France. On her staff is a simple electrician and handy man called Jean, who happens to smitten with our charming heroine.

Well, who wouldn’t?

Too shy to tell his boss how he really feels about her, Jean writes it all down in a letter several times over before finally finding the courage to anonymously post it to her.

Fortuitously, Emelie reads this at work in front of her would be suitor. But when she crushes it in her hand before tossing it into the bin, it’s fair to say Jean’s heart goes through a similar experience.

Wrapped up in her own little bubble, Emelie goes to meet her increasingly agoraphobic mother for lunch.

No sooner than she’s arrived, however, Maddy’s looking for an exit. Exasperated by her mother’s descent into depression since her father left her for a younger woman, Emilie decides to give her mother a reason to live again.

Fishing Jean’s trampled love letter out of the trash, Emelie types this up and sends it on to her mother.

Before you can say “french farce”, Emelie, Jean and Maddy become entangled in a series of awkward misunderstandings with hilarious consequences.

While the first part of that last sentence may have sounded sarcastic, the last sentiment is totally sincere.

Beautiful Lies is a sweet film that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel for romantic comedies, instead focusing on making the script as funny and witty as it can be.

And how they succeed.

I wish every stupidly, moronic hollywood “comedy” would take a leaf out of Salvadori and screenwriter Benoit Graffin’s book, and try to do the same trick with their laughter free, famous face rich scripts.

As ever, Tautou is bewitching as the well meaning yet flawed Emelie. Either she or the writer, probably both, understand that it’s the little things about a character that makes them real for an audience.

So when Jean reluctantly reveals that he’s a little less simple than he may have let her believe, the first thing Emelie does is feel threatened by his newly possessed authority.

Every crazy little thing Emilie does reminds me of every crazy little thing any girl whose had the misfortune of spending a lot of time with me will slowly reveal about themselves the more you get to know them.

Perhaps it is this vulnerability that makes Tautou so engaging in every film I’ve seen her in.

Apart from Tautou, the script is the star. Salvadori and Graffin have crafted a predictable yet pleasing story with genuine insights on life, love and the beautifully imperfect human condition.

The result is a film that’s both hysterical, touching and the perfect antidote to all those false movies out there that have been created to be something they think their audience wants them to be.

Beautiful Lies is happy enough just being true to itself, and that’s no lie.

Jonathan Campbell

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August 2011
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