In Beautiful Lies, Audrey Tautou might play a character named Emilie, but don’t let the name’s similarities to a certain other role she has played lead you into a false sense of security that you’ll be watching another delightfully-twee, sugar coated skip through a park. Emilie is rather more hard and mean-spirited, and actually quite unlikeable. In the film, she plays a hairdresser who receives an anonymous love-letter from her handy man, Jean. Rather than responding, she forwards them to her mother, Maddy, who she feels is in need of a confidence boost following her impending divorce. However, when her mother sees Jean delivering the letter, she becomes rather obsessed with her, and the web of lies spiral out of control.
It’s hard to care really though, because all the characters are vacuous and incredibly uninteresting. For a romantic comedy, there’s little in the way of romance or laughter, as Jean is pursued by Maddy in a number of set-ups which feel contrived. As Maddy sees Jean post the letter she follows him back to the salon in her dressing gown and slippers, whilst hiding from him. Go home and put some jeans on first at least.
There’s also the other issue of Jean being infatuated with Emilie, yet making no effort to act on these urges or even let her know bar the letters, and it’s even harder to believe still that he would be in love with her in such a way. She actively avoids talking to him after she realises he’s (gasp!) educated and fires and rehires him in quick successive a number of tedious times.
With a totally unsatisfactory payoff, Beautiful Lies is not really a film to admire, more to tolerate. Still, it’s rather more watchable than recent American counterparts and the film isn’t really disastrous, it’s more like the cinematic equivalent of Britrock. Perfectly passable at the time, yet instantly forgettable once the thing’s over with.