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BERLIN — A sad-sack waiter becomes a fraudulent literary sensation in “My Words, My Lies, My Love,” a fair-to-middling little date movie that was rather unfairly trampled by boxoffice behemoths during the German holiday season. International film festival exposure is likely to be limited for a film about an authorial hoax which, ironically enough, never finds its own creative voice. Leads Daniel Bruhl and Hannah Herzsprung nevertheless show why they are considered among the most talented of younger German actors, and their presence is the main draw here.
Based on Martin Suter’s best-selling Swiss novel (which, one presumes, he did actually write himself), the script by Alexander Buresch could conceivably inspire an English-language remake — one can imagine Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoe Saldana in a Stateside version, or perhaps Sam Riley and Carey Mulligan in a London-set variant. Any such re-do would hopefully involve a general tightening-up of a story that sprawls rather unnecessarily beyond the hundred-minute mark, losing its way once or twice before a quietly satisfying wrap-up.
Bruhl’s slightly maladroit charms are an idea fit for the role of David, a Berlin waiter who lucks out when he stumbles across an unpublished manuscript written in the 1950s. Showing it to his publishing world-savvy friend Marie (Herzsprung), whom he desires from afar, he’s catapulted to fame when the tome becomes both a massive commercial hit and a spectacular critical smash (“the ‘Anna Karenina’ for the Internet generation.”)
Having previously barely registered his presence, Marie is now much more smitten by David’s puppyish charms. But that’s about the only benefit he reaps from his overnight success, as he’s decidedly uncomfortable in the spotlight and struggles with guilt over his deception. The latter is fairly quickly rumbled by sixty-ish Jacky (Henry Hubchen), who pops up with plausible claims to be the author of the text. Complications ensue as Jacky’s presence drives a wedge between Marie and David, who is also under major pressure to come up with a second novel.
Despite a couple of moderately serious third-act developments “My Words, My Lies, My Love” (an unforgivably awkward English-language alternative for the perfectly acceptable German original “Lila Lila”) is pretty breezy, lightweight stuff. Swiss-born director Alain Gsponer — displaying unambitious competence in his third full-length feature — keeps the focus firmly on his performers with watchable results.
His film is never going to be confused with Lynne Ramsay’s rather more probing existential tale of literary deception, “Morvern Callar” (2002), but pulls off the relatively unusual feat of being a romantic comedy that has equal appeal to both sexes. And while hardly a significant chapter in the filmographies of Bruhl and Herzsprung, it’s certainly more than a minor footnote.
Venue: Berlin International Film Festival
Production companies: Film 1, Berlin; Falcom, Berlin.
Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Hannah Herzsprung, Henry Hubchen, Kirsten Block, Alexander Khuon
Director: Alain Gsponer
Screenwriter: Alexander Buresch, based on a novel by Martin Suter.Bernheim
Producers: Andreas Fallsscheer, Henning Ferber, Marcus Welke, Sebastian Zuhr
Co-producer: Thomas Sterchi
Director of photography: Matthias Fleischer
Production designer: Udo Kramer
Music: Max Richter
Costume designer: Lisy Christl
Editor: Barbara Gies
Sales: Beta Cinema, Oberhaching, Germany
No rating, 107 minutes
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