An anonymous love letter fraudulently passed on to an irrational recipient that leads to a series of unfortunate events, Beautiful Lies (De vrais mensonges) epitomizes a bona fide and contemporary French farce that resulted in laughter aplenty.
This being an outstanding subsequent collaboration by director Pierre Salvadori and award-winning actress Audrey Tautou (most notably known from Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain; also known as Amélie), Beautiful Lies falls far from the expected carbon copy of his 2006 masterpiece Priceless (Hors de prix), nonetheless perpetuating his trademark comical métier.
Director Salvadori outdoes himself with a brilliant yet slightly bizarre love triangle between a sensitive, witty young handyman of Arab descent, a co-owner of a salon, and her almost divorced mother, set in the south of France.
While the movie was set in, yet again, the Southern France (Same location as Priceless), the cinematography was significantly better played this time round, portraying a quirky romance-based setting and a more modern touch. Thankfully, English and Mandarin subtitles aided our fellow locals in understanding the witty phrases played out in French.
A significantly aged Tautouportrays Emilie Dandrieux – Yes, we note the resemblance in name – a 30-year-old who owns a beauty/hairdressing salon with her best friend Sylvia (Stéphanie Lagarde). Emilie receives an anonymous love letter penned by the introverted handyman Jean (Sami Bouajia) who works at her salon. Minutes after trashing the heartfelt letter, Emilie decides she might as well put the letter to ‘good’ use. Oblivious to her faceless admirer, she conscientiously types out the letter that she later sends to her mother Maddy Dandrieux (Nathalie Baye), creating an adolescent dream come true for the near-divorcee who seems crippled by her separation for 4 years.
Salvadori creates much vulgar humour via transitioning scenes such as Emilie penning down a new letter – that focused much on sexual desires and passion – drunk on more than ¾ of pure Smirnoff after being told by her mother that the second letter was too detached and aloof compared to the fervency of the first.
Tautou also plays a less sultry and provocative persona than in Priceless as her eccentric, cranky character in Beautiful Lies came across as philophobic, and also insecure as she fires Jean a handful of times after learning that he was fluent in 5 languages later unveiling that she had problems with successful men before that resulted in her inferiority complex.
The plot unfurls as Emilie sends Jean to deliver a second letter to her mother after Sylvia rehires him, never expecting the guy to hand-deliver it after running out of stamps.
Irony ensues as Maddy falls madly in love with her faceless poet, stalking him back to the salon only to find that Jean was one of Emilie’s employees.
Blinded by the prospect of new love, she proceeds to openly seduce Jean after browsing through of the contents of the letter en route back home, causing much awkwardness in the salon while Emilie holds her breath to fix the blunder.
The image of the pensioner pursuing a young hunk led to much guffawing, as Maddy turned feisty and seductive, resulting in much comical relief while she goes through a compass of passionate emotions while thinking that Jean was captivated by her allure.
One thing definitely notable was the natural chemistry between the actors as Tautou and Bouajia made the movie believable, as though bringing the viewer into the set to experience the romance for themselves. Tautou is without question an actress that goes beyond boundaries as we see her versatility in this film in comparison to her performance in Amélie and Priceless.
The assistants of the salon also played a huge part in the comedic aspect of the film as peculiar characters such as a deer-in-the-headlights Paulette (Judith Chemla) portrayed roles that further played on the awkwardness of the film. Undoubtedly, Salvadori made sure that there were no lack of comedic moments in the film as laughter was prevalent throughout the entire film despite the perplexing love triangle.
One aspect particularly favored by many was the beauty of words put together in the contents of the letter, artsy scenes such as Maddy walking through a crowd coexisted with readings of the poetry written, lines such as “That’s the ultimate gesture, to stop loving someone out of love for them” further hinted the profoundness of the film and emphasized the theme of the movie.
The denouement of the film revealed a furtive showdown between mother and daughter as Emilie’s feelings for Jean kindled, evoking many comments on how Mom’s a, pardon my French, bitch. Emilie’s non-existent libido was also questionable in contrast to her mother’s raging one.
Thankfully, “who slept with who” never became an issue in the film even though the mere thought of such a perverse relationship sickens many, and although highlighting that the protagonist would rather be with Emilie, the film shows the relationship between an older woman and younger man.
Forget the outré notion of a love triangle comprising of a mother-daughter relationship, Beautiful Lies steers far away from the cliché conventional age hurdle, showing the audience the different types of love that exist in life, making it believable and real.
Catch the trailer for Beautiful Lies here:
Beautiful Lies opens on 7th July exclusive at GV Vivocity Cinema Europa
Photo courtesy of Festive Films