Beautiful Lies (De vrais mensonges, 2011)

Co-owner of a thriving hairdressing salon, Emilie (Audrey Tatou) is blissfully unaware that she has a secret admirer on her payroll. Dismissing an anonymous love letter from her overqualified handyman (Sami Bouajila), Emilie revisits the beautifully worded prose when she contrives a means of helping her lovelorn mother (Nathalie Baye) get over her gallivanting husband. Rewriting the letter and posting it, mother Maddy is suddenly a new and revived woman.

Writing new letters to maintain her mother’s new-found happiness, Emilie’s plans backfire when she tasks Jean with delivering the latest letter. Believing the letters to be from him, Maddy falls head over heals in love with him. Rather than coming clean, Emilie digs herself a bigger and bigger hole as she slowly comes to terms with the escalating size of the situation. Will the truth out? Don’t count on it.

Audrey Tatou is just stunning, don’t you think? Her ability to shine through even the most unremarkable of films often imbuing them with a charm and warmth far beyond their means. The same is true here, I’m afraid, as her Emilie ably carries Beautiful Lies through an thanklessly whimsical trail of contrivances and creaking comedics to its ultimate, rather underwhelming conclusion. For the first hour her efforts are facilitated by a delightful little tale of crossed wires and tall tales, the cast ably traversing the sugar coating to agreeable and engaging effect. Unfortunately, having reached what might be seen as its natural conclusion, the film blindly carries on for another twenty minutes or so, somehow managing to undo the sweet harmlessness of what came before.

Like Priceless before it, Beautiful Lies is a story of beautiful – if not particularly likeable – people. As each character panders to their second face, piling on the manipulations in some misguided attempt at rendering the truth out of sight and out of mind, preferably until everyone is corrupted, the film seems to avoid the obvious conclusion for quirk’s sake alone. The charming set-up is quickly squandered as spite overtakes indescretions and the narrative is dragged past its allocated happily ever after. Who, pray tell, are we supposed to be rooting for? The woman scamming her own mother? The secret admirer stealing money from the till? The mother who is desperate to live a lie? Rather than defying well-worn Hollywood convention, Pierre Salvadori reaches the same trite conclusions, only without having done the necessary leg-work to earn his mercilessly contrived resolution.

Light and insubstantial, Beautiful Lies could have been a charming, if disposable delight, but instead outstays its welcome in an unsuccessful bid to be needlessly offbeat and quirky. Well acted but ultimately frustrating, Beautiful Lies seems to suggest that lying’s great, and an absolutely smashing basis for any relationship – completely undermining any and all attempts at character development in the process.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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