Starring Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Christa Théret, Nora Hamzawi
When I walked into the theater to see this film it was called “Non-Fiction,” the latest by French director Olivier Assayas (“Personal Shopper,” “Clouds of Sils Maria”). By the time I left the screening at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF), it had already been re-titled “Double Lives.” Of the recent Binoche collaborations, this is the weakest. It fully embraces what American’s associate with French film stereotypes; loose sexual morals and elitist conversations. “Non-Fiction” explores the way modern technology is changing the way people communicate. It’s split up with four main characters all dealing with their own interconnected moral dilemmas. It has its smart, highbrow, intellectual moments in the script, but this won’t appeal to sensibilities outside Europe.
Alain (Guillaume Canet) is a respected publisher who is struggling with the take over by modern technology. He’s just rejected a well-known celebrity author who has delivered yet another “autofiction” novel detailing his trysts and affairs. Author Léonard (Vincent Macaigne) is also a personal friend, so rejecting his novel is not the easiest call to make. Alain’s wife Selena (Juliette Binoche) is a television actress who has become bored with her reoccurring crime series. She also thinks her husband is cheating on her, but doesn’t care too much, since she is already cheating on him. Selena makes it her mission to convince Alain to publish Léonard’s book, poorly titled “Non-Stop,” by telling everyone at every dinner party how great she thinks the book is.
There is a lot of conversation that recycles much of the film's points on technology, love, and honesty.
Assayas’s script here runs too long, the film loses its wind near the second act and limps to the third. There is a lot of conversation that recycles much of the film’s points on technology, love, and honesty. In a way it feels like Polanski’s “Carnage,” but more sprawled out and less effective. “Non-Fiction” never grabs your attention because there is little to be involved in with these characters. Neither title helps to sell or create a specific identity for this film that’s so easily forgettable. None of the performances stand out, expect maybe Macaigne, whose appearance could be described as an unkempt and wildly destructive Peter Jackson persona.
Perhaps the funniest moments in “Non-Fiction” is when the characters (and Assayas) mock “Star Wars” (and in turn American cinema), and praises “White Ribbon,” mentioning director Michael Haneke by name multiple times. The running gag, which includes fellatio in a movie theater, even goes as far as to mention “Juliette Binoche” by character, asking Selena if she might have contacts that know the actress. It becomes very apparent that this film isn’t and was never intended for American audiences, who often need their jokes and comedy a bit more on the nose. Ultimately, Assayas attempts to take one or two really good intellectual points and make an entire film around them, but it just can’t be sustained for two hours.
A sarcastic comedic riot for intellectual European film circles but probably won't sustain the typical American’s short attention span.