Written & Directed by Guillaume Canet
Produced by Alain Attal
Released by MPI Pictures
French with English subtitles
France. 154 min. Not rated
With Jean Dujardin, Marion Cotillard, François Cluzet, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Joël Dupuch & Laurent Lafitte

From the get-go, Little White Lies intentionally feels like a French, modern day The Big Chill; a large group of longtime friends gather together after one of them undergoes a dire tragedy. The film opens with recent Oscar winner Jean Dujardin as Ludo, a party boy with a drug problem. After leaving a Parisian club at dawn on his motor scooter, all the street lights seem to turn green before him until… he is struck by vehicle. As he suffers in limbo at a local ICU unit, his friends gather to show their love and support.

All of them, however, are so involved in their own lives that Ludo’s accident becomes a catalyst for their problems to come forward. Since the critically injured Ludo isn’t allowed to receive many visitors, the gang decides to carry on with their annual beach vacation without him. The group’s unofficial leader is Max (François Cluzet, recently seen in The Intouchables), a wealthy hotel owner, slightly older than the rest of the group, who owns an amazing beach house in Cap Ferrat. His perpetual grumpiness is spurred on by the fact that he sometimes feels his friends take advantage of his hospitality. Before leaving for the beach, Vincent (Benoît Magimel) confesses to Max of having been in love with him for quite some time. This complicates not only their longtime friendship, but they are both married and have children. As they are placed in close quarters during their vacation, tensions will boil.

Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) broke up with his longtime girlfriend a while ago but can’t seem to stop pining for her. Eric (Gilles Lellouche) is constantly screwing up his relationships through womanizing. Most notably is Marie (Marion Cotillard), the one most affected by Ludo’s accident; she used to date him. As an anthropologist, her travels abroad lead her away from the group for most of the year. She’s both a core member of the gang as well as an outsider. It’s refreshing to see Cotillard in this kind of modern comedy/drama after roles in darker films, like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. She and Cluzet stand out amongst the cast, though all create a believable chemistry with each other.

While their beach vacation may seem like an escape from it all, it turns out to be the place where all their secrets emerge. Director Guillaume Canet does a great job taking advantage of the beautiful beach scenery. (Despite all the drama involved, I was also wishing to enjoy the sun, off shore on Max’s boat.) Canet also has a knack for balancing drama and comedy; the film has a good amount of both heartwarming and laugh-out-loud moments. The biggest issue here is its length. At over two-and-a-half hours, the engaging momentum built by the beginning wavers after some time.

One last thing to note is Canet’s use of nostalgia. As mentioned earlier, Canet borrows from films like The Big Chill, and this is no where more clearly evident than in the soundtrack. Despite having a contemporary setting, music heard throughout the film includes very ’70s musicians like Creedence Clearwater Revival and David Bowie. While certainly serving as a nod to other films, the soundtrack also creates a sense of history between these old friends—a welcome sense of nostalgia without being too heavy-handed.