Directed by: Pierre Salvadori
Written by:Benoit Graffin, Pierre Salvadori
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Nathalie Baye, Sami Bouajila, Stephanie Lagarde, Judith Chemla
Released: July 21, 2011
Grade: C

The French are usually reliable when it comes to romantic comedies but Beautiful Lies is not a film I’d cite as an example.  It’s as if they’ve borrowed from the American model and tried to come up with something too crazy and convoluted.  That said, I should at least be thankful that there’s no toilet humour.

The woman occupying centre stage is a young hairdresser named Emilie (Tautou) who runs her own hair salon.  I’m not sure how the business makes any money based on its strange staff but we’ll save that question for another time.

The guy trying to earn her affections is Jean (Bouajila), a handyman who has been employed to do a few odd jobs.  It appears the only reason he’s working there is so that he can perve on Emilie.  This is quickly confirmed when we learn he was once a translator and he can speak many languages.  He could certainly do better than this small, low paying job.

Jean writes an anonymous love letter to Emilie but it doesn’t make much of an impact.  She thinks it’s from a creepy old man and chucks it straight in the bin.  Later that day, she digs it out.  It’s not because she’s had a change of heart.  Rather, she wants to copy the letter and send it to her mother.

Before you start scratching your head, it turns out that Emilie’s mother (Baye) has been in the doldrums since separating from her husband four years ago.  Emilie thinks that by sending her an anonymous love letter, it might get her out of the house and kick start her self confidence.

It’s not the brightest of ideas and it quickly goes pear shaped.  The mother goes back to her gloomy self when no further letters arrive and so Emilie continues the charade by sending more letters.  It’s obvious no thought went into the idea.  This get even sillier when Emilie coaxes Jean into taking her mother on a date and pretending that it was he who wrote the letters.

How could this possibly end well?  Writer-director Pierre Salvador tries to come up with a neat, happy ending but it doesn’t work.  I hated all of these people.  Emilie is selfish and has little appreciation for those around her.  Jean is a love-sick fool with no direction in life.  The mother seems to have a distinct lack of social skills.  It’s pretty hard to enjoy a romantic comedy when there isn’t a single likeable character.

It’s a shame to see the beautiful Audrey Tautou (Amelie, The Da Vinci Code) wasted on such an uninteresting role.  I could say the same for Nathalie Baye (Tell No One, Catch Me If You Can) who must have been instructed to overplay the part as much as possible.  She’s incredibly annoying.

It’s been a slow year in Australia so far in terms of quality foreign language films and Beautiful Lies continues that trend.  Hopefully there’ll be some better stuff in the months to follow.