Review by Jack Foley
THE first time that Audrey Tautou worked with director Pierre Salvadori the result was the sparkling comedy Priceless. We’d be lying if we said that their reunion, for Beautiful Lies, was quite such a success.
Sporadically amusing and nicely performed, the film nevertheless struggles to escape feeling overly contrived, while Tautou’s central character, while certainly novel, is extremely difficult to warm to.
She plays sassy, no-nonsense hairdresser Emilie who is unaware of the feelings felt for her by shy Arab handyman Jean (Sami Bouajila), who – in turn – is penning the anonymous love letters she is receiving.
Far from holding those letters dear, however, Emilie forwards them to her depressed mother (Nathalie Baye) in a bid to give her life new purpose.
The ensuing farce finds all three of the protagonists mis-reading signs and misplacing emotions, culminating in some awkward revelations.
On the plus side, Salvadori’s film boasts a fine central performance from Tautou that continues to highlight her strengths as both a dramatic and comedic actress.
Some of her put downs and expressions are priceless, while the interplay between her and veteran Baye is also pretty endearing – the two share a believable mother-daughter chemistry.
Bouajila, too, acquits himself well as the shy, unassuming handyman Jean who is continually striving to do the right thing no matter how awkward or embarrassing the situation.
But there’s no masking the fact that Salvadori’s screenplay sometimes feels a little too driven by coincidence and contrivance, while the Emilie character does eventually begin to test the patience.
At an hour and three quarters, the slight plotting and gentle pace also begins to outstay its welcome, when a tighter 90-minute offering would have just kept things simmering nicely.
In French, with subtitles
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 7, 2011