Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Pierre Salvadori
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila, Stephanie Lagarde, Judith Chemla.
Audrey Tautou has become something of a mainstay of French romantic comedies, particularly after the delightful Amelie brought her to the attention of cinemagoers around the world.
In this latest Gallic romantic comedy, the perky Tatou plays Emilie, who runs a busy hairdressing salon in Sète, a seaside resort town in the sunny South of France. Ebullient by nature, she provides an endless stream of well-meaning advice to her oddball clients and friends. Jean (Sami Bouajila, from The Siege, Days Of Glory, etc) is the shy handyman at the salon, and is secretly in love with Emilie. He writes her an anonymous letter in which he expresses his feelings. But Emilie decides to rewrite it and pass it on to her eccentric mother Maddy (Nathalie Baye, from Tell No One, etc), who is still depressed by her separation from her husband and his upcoming nuptials with a girl 20 years younger. The letter briefly cheers her up, and brings a spark to her step again.
But matters take a turn for the worse, and complications set in when she thinks that Jean (Bouajila) is her shy admirer. While a rejuvenated Maddy attempts to seduce Jean, Emilie watches from the sidelines in growing frustration and confusion about her own feelings. An awkward romantic triangle develops as the comic misunderstandings are compounded. Although Emilie acted with good intentions, her deception causes lots of hurt feelings, grief, tension within the workplace, and fractures a number of relationships.
Beautiful Lies (aka De Vrais Mensonges or Full Treatment) is a charming, bright and breezy romantic comedy about mistaken identities, small deceptions, the search for love and unrequited romance that seems to take its cues from The Shop Around The Corner/You’ve Got Mail. The film comes from veteran writer/director Pierre Salvadori and his regular collaborator Benoit Graffin (Priceless, Apres-Vous, etc). Salvadori directs the material with restraint and maintains an upbeat and effervescent tone throughout. There are some wonderfully comic moments to be found.
With her elfin smile, sparkling eyes and penchant for playing quirky characters, Tatou has a charming screen presence, and Salvadori, who also directed her in the wonderful Priceless, uses it to great effect here. There is also good support from the rest of the ensemble cast. Veteran Baye brings vulnerability and a world of hurt to her sympathetic performance as the lonely, middle-aged woman who has been badly burned in a past relationship. Bouajila also brings a mix of emotions to his role as the lovelorn Jean. There are also some nice touches of humour from Stephanie Lagarde and Judith Chemla, who plays the ditzy Paulette, Emilie’s colleagues who are reluctantly dragged into the deception.
There is not a lot that is particularly fresh or original here, but Beautiful Lies should still prove to be a crowd pleasing romantic comedy.