Dir: Eric Lartigau
Cast: Roman Duris, Marina Foïs, Catherine Deneuve, Niels Arestrup, Eric Ruf, Branka Katic
Running Time: 115 minutes
If there’s one constant irk thrown against Hollywood these days, it’s that there’s not an original idea out there and that everything is either an adaptation, a remake, a reboot or a sequel. Particular nerves are hit when works from overseas – be the films, plays or books – are twisted to suit an American audience. Suddenly Stockholm becomes New Mexico, Boston subs in for Hong Kong and Asian horror remake becomes a valid genre of film. The shoe has rarely been on the other foot, unless you count some of Bollywood’s interesting takes on some Hollywood classics (I command you to search out the reworking of Mrs Doubtfire).
French director Eric Lartigau aims to just that in The Big Picture, adapting from American Douglas Kennedy’s novel. Like the book, it concerns a wealthy law firm partner Paul (Roman Duris) on the verge of taking over the whole company. He’s a man who has it all seemingly, money, a huge Parisian house, the adoration of his kids. There’s always a but though, and in his case it’s a wife who is becoming more and more distant from him, to the point she shacks up with the local pretentious photographer Greg (Eric Ruf). Paul confronts him and inadvertently kills him. Weighing up fleeing the scene, turning himself into the police, he decides to dispose of the body in a way Dexter Morgan would be proud of, steals Greg’s identity and flees to a small coastal town near Split in Croatia.
It’s this crux that the film sells itself on, pointing a mirror at the audience and asking them what would they do in this situation? Have they ever wanted a second chance in life? We never quite get it though, there’s a point where you think Paul could get away with it and go back to normal life, still though, he chooses to run. A choice made all the more hard to swallow after some wonderfully touching and affecting scenes with his son. It’s this failure to really get us behind Paul that stops The Big Picture from being a great film. However, it’s is still a very, very good film.
Duris puts in an monumental performance, encompassing three different roles: caring and willing to move the earth to save his family, cold, precise and exact in cleaning a murder and finally on edge and riddled with paranoia. Although the main focal and driving point of the film, he is backed up by some strong performances from Marina Foïs as his loveless wife and A Prophet’s Niels Arestrup providing the bulk of the humour as a constantly inebriated magazine editor.
With photography a major theme, you’d be more than right to expect a beautiful looking film, and it is here that The Big Picture truly rides high. The contrasts between a romanticised and almost sepia toned Paris contrasted with the washed out colours of the Adriatic coastline are stunning.
It’s hard to leave this film and not wonder what this might have been in American hands. There are glaring holes in Paul’s plan, it’s difficult to ever truly be endeared to him and there are some terribly clichéd characters – Greg’s arrogant philanderer being the prime suspect. It is to Lartigau and Duris credit, then, that The Big Picture delivers such an enthralling and engaging story where if handled wrong, we’d be left with a not so Talented Mr. Ripley.