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Non-Fiction (A Movie Review)

Non-Fiction (Doubles Vies)


Starring Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Nora Hamzawi, Christa Théret, Pascal Greggory, Laurent Poitrenaux, Sigrid Bouaziz, Lionel Dray, Nicolas Bouchaud, Antoine Reinartz, Aurélia Petit, Thierry de Peretti, Violaine Gillibert, Jean-Luc Vincent, Laetitia Spigarelli, Stéphane Roger, David Blot and Jeanne Candel.

Screenplay by Olivier Assayas.

Directed by Olivier Assayas.

Distributed by Sundance Selects. 107 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.

This French film had originally been called Double Lives upon its release in Europe. They may have been slightly over-estimating themselves, because a lot of these characters felt a little lifeless. (See what I did there?)

Not that Non-Fiction is a bad film. It’s often rather funny in its own quiet way. It’s just a rather stuffy look at beautiful, well-off, middle-aged Parisian intellectuals from the publishing world juggling partners while they mourn the death of print – and try to find their own relevancy in a new digital world.

It feels like a Gallic Woody Allen movie, but from his later talky, angsty period, not the early laugh-out-loud ones. Therefore, even though the film has a bit of a sense of humor about itself and an occasional wink of meta cheekiness – an aside where the character played by Juliette Binoche has to participate in the brief mocking of the real actress Juliette Binoche is amusing – in the end the movie comes off as a little dry and sometimes boring.

Yet, this smart satire does bring up some very intriguing and timely issues and handles them thoughtfully. A debate between the permanence of literature versus the convenience of cyber and tablets is particularly poignant, as a group of people who have made their lives and reputations in the promotion of the printed word have to come to terms with a world in which expediency is coming to replace the tactile experiences.

Guillaume Canet is Alain, a well-respected book publisher who is toying with the idea of switching his imprint to digital – a cost-saving idea which still goes against most of what he has always held dear. His biggest critic in this idea is Léonard (Vincent Macaigne), a slightly cheesy novelist whose books are just very lightly disguised variations of his own romantic affairs.

The newest of these affairs is with Selena (Binoche), Alain’s wife and a minor celebrity as the star of a popular CSI-type crime series. Léonard’s girlfriend Valerie (the major film debut of French comedienne Nora Hamzawi) suspects the affair, but she is busy as assistant to a government official.

And finally, there is Laure (Christa Théret), the hot young millennial in Alain’s office who tempts him with both her tech savvy and her fresh beauty.

Non-Fiction asks some very important questions about modern technology and a world that is moving faster than some people feel comfortable with. The problem is, sometimes it asks those questions over and over; in heated conversations and pillow talk and intellectual jousting and breezy asides. The movie offers some fascinating insights and some very witty banter, but it is just a bit too fond of gazing at its own navel to completely recommend.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 29, 2018.

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