This is my review of Beautiful Lies [DVD] (2010).
This is the latest in a spate of well-made, “feel good” films flowing out of France. Any irritation over its silliness is offset by the magnetic presence of Audrey Tautou, as Émilie Dandrieux, the to be honest rather capricious and devious joint owner of a hair salon. Not realising that an anonymous love letter has been sent to her by Jean, the salon’s handsome odd-job man, Tautou retrieves this from the waste bin, and uses it verbatim to concoct a letter from an imaginary secret admirer to her mother Maddy. Émilie is convinced that this will serve to shake Maddy, sympathetically played by Nathalie Baye, out of her longstanding grief over being abandoned by her callous husband.
In the style of true French farce, the misunderstandings pile up as you may well imagine.
There are many amusing scenes, as when Émilie is forced to admit that she has sacked Jean, because the discovery that he is multilingual and Harvard- educated (he’s lost his position as an interpreter owing to a nervous breakdown) makes her feel inadequate and uncertain about how to speak grammatically in his presence.
The denouement is cringe-making in places, the emotions superficial – except for Jean’s at times inexplicable fancy for Émilie – and the ultimate happy ending not in doubt, but a little light-hearted entertainment probably never did anyone much harm, and it is a way of practising one’s French. You may also like the fact that the main characters are all flawed in various ways, especially Émilie, which may make them appear more human.
My only query is why the title was changed from “De Vrais Mensonges” which translated literally as “Real Lies” seems more apt.