Director Pierre Salvadori reunites with actress Audrey Tautou from their earlier collaboration Priceless, but don't get your hopes up too high that Beautiful Lies would be a solid enough follow up especially if you enjoyed their earlier film on how some would fake a relationship or trade love for money. Salvadori continues with the offbeat romantic comedy premise involving make believe with this film, but alas it came through as a rather predictable affair.
It's hard to sustain a relationship based on a lie, and things get a lot complicated here when lies become the foundations on which romantic relationships, favours and that between parent and child get all built upon, where an innocently anonymous letter from a hair salon handyman Jean (Sami Bouajila) to his boss Emelie (Audrey Tautou) the salon co-owner, gets tossed aside by the latter since she obviously paid no heed to it, only for that attention to be retracted when she realized that her mom Maddy (Nathalie Baye) is due for a romantic lift from her prolonged sustained depression since her husband Marc (Paul Morgan) left her for someone younger and nubile to be his artistic muse.
Thus begins a series of contrived misunderstandings and lies built upon lies with the constant letter writings from Emelie posing as an anonymous admirer, only for her ruse to be unintentionally skewed way off the mark when Maddy thinks it is indeed Jean who has hidden feelings for her, no thanks to an errant Jean had to run which took him to dropping off the letter. Naturally this follows plenty of hidden meanings and Emelie trying to come between the two for fear of an expose, guiding this film to some laughable light hearted moments.
But it turned into a chore with Emelie having to beg a reluctant Jean to continue a charade to entertain her mother for fear of her mental and emotional state, with Emelie none the wiser that Jean was actually the originator of the letter to her declaring his love from afar. Oh the pain involved to help a loved one in her time of need, yet having to compromise one's principles to act out a lie, and worse, to lead a senior citizen on in some hope of a second wind of romance. It may sound like a fun premise, but trust me, it certainly was a chore to the character of Jean, and somehow this translated to the whole narrative giving you that sinking feeling of being unable to bail out from something forced upon, and unpleasant.
Beautiful Lies got condemned in a certain way with a whole host of unlikeable ones. Emelie begins with a good intent, but in efforts to save her own skin from embarrassment and to keep her madcap idea under reins, she turns into some crazy control freak who frequently lies, manipulating Jean and of course causing undue strain with her staff at work. Manipulative and scheming, Audrey Tautou does pull this one off to a certain degree, until it became repetitive no thanks to Emelie's constant exasperation. Jean also went into an about turn with his descend into probably one of the biggest cinematic jerks as well, one without courage to walk out of a morally compromising position, and assisting an ugly (on the inside) woman with her grand scheme. Only perhaps Nathalie Baye's portrayal as the emotionally helpless mom brought about some light to the film, if not for the last few scenes of the film to really show her off as an opportunist with no qualms to turn tables.
Without characters you genuinely feel for and a narrative that was in a hurry to conclude with a convenient ending sticking out like a sore thumb, one too perfect in many ways to sweep all development under the carpet, Beautiful Lies is extremely far from beautiful, and you would probably be better off watching any of Tautou's earlier works. Certainly not one of her best roles to date, stuck in a story based on a joke that had gone too far it isn't interesting.