Thursday, 7 March 2013

A Gallic Reggie Perrin...The Big Picture

The Big Picture

We’ve had a string of pretty decent, slick French thrillers over the last couple of years (Anything For Her, Tell No One, etc.) so it was almost inevitable that sooner or later we’d get a duff one.  While it’s far from an unmitigated disaster, The Big Picture is that duffer.

Paul (Romain Duris) has it all.  Smooth and handsome, he’s a successful Parisian lawyer with a beautiful wife, Sarah (Marina Fois), a couple of gorgeous kids, a big house and a nice middle class circle of friends.  He’s even in line to take over the law firm when terminally ill senior partner and GILF Anne (Catherine Deneuve) pops her Louis Vuitton’s. 

But, being French, Paul is dissatisfied with his life.  A talented amateur photographer who gave up on his dreams, Paul is adrift, too filled with ennui to even be bothered being consumed by self-loathing.  Sarah, being French, is also dissatisfied with her nice, pampered middle class life so she’s started joyously boffing the next-door neighbour, an arrogant photo-journalist.  Can you see where this is going yet? 

When Sarah leaves him, Paul picks a fight with the photographer, accidentally killing him.  Faced with the shame of being exposed as a murderer and a life in prison, Paul covers up the crime, fakes his own death and assumes the victim’s identity, legging it to Montenegro.  Suddenly freed from the shackles of wife, kids and responsibility, Paul blossoms into the photographer and artist he always should have been, finding work on a Belgrade newspaper and rapidly scoring himself an exhibition at a trendy art gallery.  However his newfound fame may prove to be his undoing… 

And that’s about it.  French guy commits murder, French guy gets away with murder.  Sure, he finds a measure of redemption in the closing scenes of the film but this feels artificial, more as if the filmmakers didn’t know how to finish the film and so tacked on a last-minute good deed.  A lot like its lead, the film is stylish and good-looking but loses its way in the last third.  Duris is as handsome and moody here as he was in The Beat That My Heart Skipped and, despite his Paul lacking the passion to commit a crime passionnel, he’s a sympathetic, attractive protagonist.  The problem with The Big Picture is that other than the central murder nothing much happens and it happens very slowly.  It feels too much like a reheat of other, better films, most notably Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger or Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley.  Unfortunately, it lacks the freewheeling existentialism of Antonioni’s film or the precision and incidence of Minghella’s.  The film lacks tension; you never quite care enough to wonder if Paul will get away with his crime and for a supposedly loving family man who lives for his kids he seems to find it all too easy to turn his back on them.  Ultimately, you just don’t really care.

More a Gallic Reggie Perrin than The Talented Mr Ripley, The Big Picture may just be the least thrilling thriller you’ll see all year.

David Watson

Eric Lartigau
Romain Duris, Marina Fois, Catherine Deneuve, Branka Katic, Niels Arestrup, Eric Ruf
Eric Lartigau, Laurent de Bartillat & Stephane Cabal, based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy
Running time

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