B- Family drama
Written by Hirokazu Koreeda from a story by Ken Liu
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Let’s face it. We all know what families are about. Even the best of them involve fights, misunderstandings, secrets that occasionally bubble up, and are all held together with genuine love. That makes family dramas tricky. If one is going to hold your interest, it must be about a very interesting family.
Last year, the Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda created an exceptional family drama in Shoplifters, about a family of thieves. But in his follow-up film, The Truth, he finds a family nowhere near as interesting.
Perhaps he couldn’t get over the language barrier. Most of the dialog is in French; the rest is in English. None of it is in Japanese.
The Truth isn’t a bad movie. My problem with it is that I’ve seen too many movies like it – and most of them were better. True, I found myself caring for the characters, but let’s face it, the problems of an aging narcissistic movie star isn’t as compelling as that of a family of shoplifters.
Catherine Deneuve plays that aging movie star, and I truly hope she wasn’t playing herself. Her character thinks only about herself. In an interview she openly speaks badly about the movie she’s currently acting in. She gets upset that her tea is too hot, and then upset about how this horrible problem is fixed. She’s surprised to discover that her servant has grandchildren – one of them in high school.
The story gets going when her daughter and son-in-law (Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke) arrive from the states, along with their adorable, bilingual daughter. They flew to France to celebrate the release of movie star grandma’s new autobiography. No one but the aging star is happy with the book. It’s apparently full of lies and ignores many of the important people in her life – including close family members.
Famous Grandma is not the only problem in the family, or the only actor. Hawke’s character also acts professionally, but not as successfully. Now with his graying beard, he must accept that he was never more than a second-rate TV actor. He’s also an alcoholic. He’s been dry for a while, but with all that fine French wine, that may not last.
Much of the film is set in a movie studio, where Deneuve is acting in a science fiction movie that she’s not interested in. The fact that a younger actress is playing her character in flashbacks makes it worse.
The film offers an actor’s view of filmmaking. The actors struggle with their lines, wait around doing nothing, and emote while a gaggle of people watch intensively.
The film has moments of transcendent joy. In one scene, the main characters dance together on the streets of Paris, and it’s just magical. But that one great scene doesn’t make up for the whole film.
IFC Films, which is distributing The Truth, doesn’t release films through virtual cinema. Since Bay Area movie theaters are still closed, this film can be streamed from Amazon, Youtube, Google Play, Apple, and Vudu.