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Taking an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach to a concept that’s worked extremely well in two other countries, Fred Cavaye’s ensemble dramedy Nothing to Hide (Le Jeu) is both deftly conceived and a tad too superficial, probing our technology-driven times but never digging far enough beneath the surface.
Set during a dinner among friends that gradually gets out of hand when they decide to make their private communications dangerously public, the tightly wound script — adapted from the original Italian version, which was directed by Paolo Genovese — is backed by Cavaye’s keen sense of staging and a solid cast that includes Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Suzanne Clement (Mommy) and Roschdy Zem (Point Blank), even if it doesn’t amount to quite enough in the end.
Sure to make money in France after collectively pulling in close to $40 million in Italy and then Spain (where it was shot by horror director Alex de la Iglesia), the low-budget, performance-driven enterprise is the kind of clever filmed theater piece that could be easily optioned for remake in the U.S. In fact, it was optioned back in early 2017 — by The Weinstein Co. So who knows if we’ll ever see it done in English.
Set in the spacious pad of psychiatrist Marie (Bejo) and her plastic surgeon husband Vincent (Belgian comic Stephane De Groodt), the dinner involves two other couples and one loner. There’s the long-married Charlotte (Clement) and Marco (Zem), as well as recent lovebirds Lea (Doria Tillier) and Thomas (Vincent Elbaz). And then there’s Ben (the excellent Gregory Gadebois), who was supposed to arrive with a new girlfriend but shows up alone, setting the stage for a second-act twist that, although you can see it coming from a mile away, add some gravitas to the proceedings.
The gang has known each other for years, but they will suddenly get to know each other a whole lot more when Marie suggests that, instead of sending texts under the table or stepping outside to make calls, they do it all out in the open. The game (as the film is titled in French) starts off meekly enough, but then before you can say 4G, happily married spouses are receiving sexts from strangers, mistresses are leaving messages on voicemail and someone receives a clitoris pictoris by SMS.
Nothing to Hide is basically a drawing-room farce updated for the iPhone age, using its setup to explore adultery and other relationship foibles that have provided comic fodder for several centuries — especially in France’s theatre de boulevard tradition.
Cavaye, who up until now has cut his teeth on a handful of action-packed thrillers (including 2008’s Anything for Her, remade as the Russell Crowe vehicle The Next Three Days), was perhaps an unusual choice for such material. But he skillfully maneuvers the plot’s multiple turns while making strong use of the single setting, moving his camera and cast around to heighten the tension as much as possible.
Bejo gives a good performance that oscillates between comedy and something darker as Marie reveals herself to be far from a perfect wife, while Xavier Dolan regular Clement is perhaps the best of the bunch as a businesswoman blindsided by a quid pro quo involving her husband. Former Comedie-Francaise star Gadebois (Angel & Tony) is memorable as the group’s perennial punching bag, but also the only person in the room with any real sense of who he is.
If the film slides toward catastrophe in the last act, a final twist involving a rare lunar eclipse (there’s a running gag that has the gang trying and failing to take a selfie with it) sets things on a different path that feels like a cop-out. On one hand, the ending seems to be saying that private lives should be kept private or else all hell would break lose, which is why cellphones are such a useful tool for daily deception. But on the other, Nothing to Hide leaves us with the sinking feeling that we’re ultimately better off keeping up appearances than facing the truth. Don’t pick up.
Production companies: Medeset Film, Mars Cinema, France 2 Cinema, C8 Films, Scope Invest
Cast: Berenice Bejo, Suzanne Clement, Stephane De Groodt, Vincent Elbaz, Gregory Gadebois, Doria Tillier, Roschdy Zem, Fleur Fitoussi
Director-screenwriter: Fred Cavaye, based on the script for the movie Perfetti sconosciuti by Filippo Bologna and Paolo Costella
Producers: Pietro Valsecchi, Camilla Nesbitt, Stephane Celerier, Valerie Garcia
Executive producer: Patrice Arrat
Director of photography: Denis Rouden
Production designer: Philippe Chiffre
Editor: Michael Dumontier
Casting director: Michael Laguens
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