Still recovering from the indignities of The Da Vinci Code, though presumably not in financial terms, Audrey Tautou collaborates with director Pierre Salvadori for the second time since Priceless, a similarly well intentioned yet despairingly malnourished romantic-comedy.
The most prominent connection between both projects is Tautou’s pixie like charm, without which Beautiful Lies would have revealed an uglier truth; the well-worn skin of the unrequited/requited love story arc, stretched here to breaking point. One can imagine Francois Ozon fashioning something more wicked and daring from the bare bones of the plot but, alas, said qualities are glaringly absent.
Emilie (Tautou) operates her own hair and beauty salon, complete with kooky staff and eccentric clientele who could just as plausibly be drinking coffee in Central Perk. Haplessly in love with Amelie Chanel is Jean (Sami Bouajila), a handyman with an innate aptitude for foreign languages. He spends vast portions of the day going unnoticed, looking longingly at Emilie through panes of stained glass like a puppy locked out in the rain. ‘They’d make a nice couple’, you hear yourself say. ‘I hope they get together’, says the woman in front. And guess what?
The cupid’s precision-aimed arrow hits a minor, utterly expected, diversion when Emilie concocts an implausible plan to redirect her lettres de l’amour to her depressed and lonely mother Maddy (Nathalie Baye) who is subsequently giddy with every other ode that arrives in the post box. Naturally, it begins to throw up some moral dilemmas, not to mention a string of oh-so-delicious misunderstandings.
Sadly like Priceless, another comedy so short on belly laughs they often only amount to hiccups, Beautiful Lies’s comfort zone is in playing it safe rather than exploring areas of more significant depth. Characters start leaning towards the misanthropic and then shirk away at the last moment, as if approaching a snarling Rottweiler. Getting bitten in this instance would’ve at least left a mark but Beautiful Lies is unfortunately instantly forgettable, memorable only for its lack of trying.