The Truth is okay, but it wont set you free – The Spool

Posted: July 2, 2020 at 7:52 pm


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The Truth is not a subtle film. Lets just get that out of the way first.

And no, subtlety need not be a requirement. Its simply a matter what shaped peg goes into what shaped hole. Lack of subtlety invites more self-awareness to fill the gap, a decided lack of self-awareness invites a more distant or peripheral approach to the material, and so forth. Such is how much ofThe Truth operates. Its hall-of-mirrors approach both heightens and downplays its drama in a breezy, engaging perspective. Or, at least, it does for a while.

We open with Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve), a famed actor in the midst of promoting her new book,The Truth (orLa Vrit). Her answers are forthright while her emotions hide behind a smokescreen of nicotine, not the least is being put to the test by the upcoming visit of her daughter, Lumir (Juliette Binoche). Lumir is a screenwriter, resentful of Fabiennes standoffish parenting. And she seems to have learned from it tooat least enough to save her own daughter, Charlotte (Clmentine Grenier), from a similar fate. And as for Lumirs recently teetotal husband, Hank (Ethan Hawke)? Well, hes just happy to be here.

Its when the trio arrives at Fabiennes houseor castle, as Charlotte puts itthat the dynamics begin to unfold. Its pretty basic stuff, at least in a sort of scaled-down Brechtian sense. And thats what makesThe Truth so curious for something that doesnt stick the landing: character interactions are lived-in and intimate, but its meta devices are so overt in their functions that the reflective detachment diminishes with time. Theres a film within a film here, but there still isnt enough to grasp on to.

Yes, one of the largest motifs inThe Truth is a sci-fi picture Fabienne is starring in. Its largely an excuse to give its central characters fictionalized equals by placing them in a closed proscenium, but it works at points. There are some sharp, quiet moments between Fabienne and younger star Manon (Manon Clavel) that help blur the line between the formers work and her insecurities, and Hirokazu Kore-eda writes and directs these scenes matter-of-factly. His usual bouts of soft comedy are here, but at the films best moments, theyre stern enough to point to something deeper.

Alas, that never fully comes to fruition.The Truth is an admittedly minor work in the grand scheme of things, and while thats fine, it works far better on a scene-by-scene basis than as a whole. Its supporting characters function as barometers to gauge how well rounded the script is.

[C]haracter interactions are lived-in and intimate, but its meta devices are so overt in their functions that the reflective detachment diminishes with time.

Take Hank, for example. He exists almost exclusively on the peripheries as Lumirs husband and, as a second-rate TV actor and recovering alcoholic, alludes to a larger disconnect. Not just in the arts world, mind you, but in this family specifically: how the family bobs farther from Fabiennes prima donna lifestyle with passing generations. The elements are here. Kore-eda, unfortunately, neglects these shadings, redirectingThe Truth into its more affluent clichs. His tender sense of humor gives a humanity to what could have otherwise been alien to most viewers, but the missed opportunities are hard to shake.

And thats generally what the final product feels like. Kore-edas film understands the difference between truth and fact, between subjective and objective. It also marks a seamless cultural shift for his first picture outside of his native Japan. He and DP Eric Gautier also do some nice work, using blocking and the occasional handheld shot to tease a visual synchronicity between characters and surroundings. But ultimately, its a harmlessand resultantly unremarkabletour through a gallery of personal issues.

The Truth opens in select theaters and on VOD this Friday, July 3.

Writer and film critic for hire who has worked with WGN Radio, Bright Wall/Dark Room, RogerEbert.com, The Film Stage, and more. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff."

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The Truth is okay, but it wont set you free - The Spool

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July 2nd, 2020 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Self-Awareness