Film review: Beautiful Lies

Newsroom 06/02/2012 | 12:20

Borrowing the star of Amelie and trying to channel the charm of that smash hit, Beautiful Lies is a very French rom-com.

Audrey Tautou’s Emilie (even the names are almost the same) owns and runs a provincial hair and beauty salon. Maintaining her business while dealing with the painful fallout of her parents’ divorce has left her little time for romantic pursuits and she has become somewhat cold, shallow and expedient in her approach to life.

This is the very opposite of the highly educated romantic Jean (Sami Bouajila), who has left a high-status job as a UN translator for less stressful work as a handyman in Emilie’s salon.
Guess what! For reasons that can have nothing to do with her personality, Jean is in love with Emilie and writes her a beautiful anonymous love letter which his sensitive boss chucks in the bin, before realizing it could come in handy on the family front.

See, Emilie’s mother Maddy (Nathalie Baye) is in a deep funk, still unable to deal with the fact that her husband left her four years ago. To boost her maman’s fragile self-esteem, Emilie types out the letter and forwards it to her mother, who is soon glowing with joy over her passionate and eloquent admirer.

Of course, a farcical mix-up soon leads Maddy to trace the letter to the baffled Jean, and an unintentional love triangle develops, as Emilie urges Jean to maintain the charade to protect her mother’s newfound confidence while – who would have thought? – falling for him herself.

Unlike most rom-coms, Beautiful Lies’ characters are far from perfect, which makes for a more satisfying film, even if it is initially hard to fathom what Jean sees in Emilie (apart from the fact she looks like Audrey Tautou) and why he tolerates her caprices. The plot twists are contrived and you can see where it’s all heading in the first few minutes.

But while it’s slight, the film has a light and winning charm, moments of pitch-perfect French comedy and three high-quality performances from its leads. And the backdrop – the gloriously sun-baked town of Sete in the South of France – adds some Mediterranean magic to the Gallic diversion.

Debbie Stowe

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