Beautiful Lies (De Vrais Mensonges)
Despite the efforts of a fine French cast – which includes Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila and Audrey Tautou – this visually unremarkable romantic comedy from writer/director Pierre Salvadori (Wild Target, Priceless), in which mother and daughter clash over the same sensitive man, never entirely comes alive. Riffing off Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner, it’s set around a beauty salon in a southern French seaside town. Cultured handyman Jean (Bouajila) improbably turns out to be a multi-lingual ex-translator and declares his amorous feelings for the shop’s brusque, self-centred owner Emilie (Tautou) via an anonymous letter. The recipient proceeds to forward the billet-doux to her depressed single mother Maddy (Baye), who’s naturally keen to meet the author of such heartfelt prose.
The stage is set therefore for a predictable procession of misunderstandings and complications, leading to the generic happy ending, with Salvadori struggling to engineer actual laughs from his convoluted tale. In fact these lonely, troubled characters – Jean for example shields a painful secret from his past, whilst the parent-child relationship between Emilie and Maddy is riddled with resentments and tensions – seem better suited to being the subjects of a more intimate drama.
Selected release from Fri 12 Aug.