Veteran French Director Olivier Assayas (CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA, SUMMER HOURS) latest revolves are a pair of couples. Leonard (Vincent Macaigne) and his wife Valerie (Nora Hamzawi), and Alain (Guillaume Canet) and Selena (Juliette Binoche). Each have professions that concern mass communication: Leonard is a semi-popular novelist. Alain is his quite accomplished publisher. Selena is an actress with a hit TV show, while Valerie works public relations for a politician. We also witness how their professional bonds evolve into personal ones.
What unites Assayas' screenplay is his observations of how modern forms of communication affects how each does their jobs. E-Books, social media, blogs, and, yes, binge-watching TV shows. Where the personal meets the professional is that Leonard's novels are here termed 'Auto-fiction' - novels based on his own life. This, naturally, causes some level of friction in that everyone in his life is, in some way, represented in his works (the movie begins with Alain informing Leonard that his latest tome is being vetted by his legal department). By no means is NON-FICTION solely confined to dissertations about the transmission of words. There is also plenty of between the sheets activity (and, I'm not talking about the pages of a book).
Assayas is an eclectic filmmaker who's made traditional dramas like SOMETHING IN THE AIR to a kicky cult comedy (IRMA VEP) to a modern ghost story (PERSONAL SHOPPER) to a bizarre film about violent Japanese Hentai (DEMONLOVER). His restlessness shows here in the story sometimes gets lost in its episodic nature, and it never really solves the conundrum of making an entertaining Motion picture about something static like words. Even the title for the movie has gone through the cycle. Assayas' preferred title was "E-Book", but, was persuaded by his French distributor to change it to "Doubles vies" (Double Lives); Re-titled yet again to the current U.S. moniker. Assayas has tipped his cap to the work of French master Eric Rohmer, but, to be blunt, his writing, while decent, isn't up to the lofty level.
What does make NON-FICTION an agreeable ride is the appealing cast and its very "French" attitude to romance. Whereas extra-marital dalliances would have weighed down most American pictures, here, such matters are shrugged off with all the heavy burden of a new haircut. Macaigne is particularly fine as the selfish scribe that even he must acknowledge is the truth. Binoche breezes along happily as a secondary character. There are a few peripheral characters, but, the only one of major import is Laure (Christa Theret) as a young woman who is trying to bring the publishing house into the modern media landscape. There's also a fun bit that breaks the fourth wall here. NON-FICTION isn't a major work, but, it's a sweet little roundlet.
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