Boy, for a film that consists almost entirely of conversations, this felt… impressively convoluted.
Non-Fiction (otherwise known as Double Lives) is the newest film from French filmmaker Olivier Assayas. It stars Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet, Vincent Macaigne, and Nora Hamzawi as two couples just… sort of hanging out and screwing each other behind the backs of their spouses? I think? The two male leads are a publisher and an author, the former incredibly cynical and set in his old school publishing ways, the latter a pseudo-sociopath who plays the sap whenever he is accused of “transparent” fiction, wherein the events of his many sordid extramarital affairs are clear as day for anyone surrounding him in his social life. Sound interesting? It is! Briefly. Very, very briefly.
The fun stops and ends during the scenes where the two couples are having dynamic, witty banter. Half of the time, it’s genuinely entertaining writing, and the dramatic tension is ramped up rather well as the actors and actresses alike struggle through what is otherwise a lecturing, listless bore of a screenplay. I wonder how one director/writer can at one time say so much, yet also say absolutely nothing at all of value. Maybe that’s the point, as the character’s heads are all so far up their own asses that they can’t help but let flow their pseudo-intellectual drivel.
Assayas can’t help but try to tackle every new-age millennial capitalistic growing pain (from e-books and audiobooks to the democratization of writing with the advent of social media), and in doing so spreads the screenplay, and thus the characters and plot, so thin that it feels as if it would collapse under any sort of dramatic weight. Also worth noting is the film looks generally ugly. Not just the shot composition and the consistency of shot-transitions used (a random fade to black only served to distract), but also the overwhelming amount of fake film grain present on the screen in literally every shot. The amount of grain here would make a wheat farmer in Kansas seethe with jealousy.
One last thing, and this is something I never thought about being a negative in BASIC screenwriting until after sitting through this all-too-long slog: never, and I mean NEVER, reference the real-life counterpart of an actor or actress as someone who exists in your film’s world. Especially if that performer is in that same scene their counterpart is referenced, and is meant to act as a mediator between them and another character. This new cardinal sin of filmmaking is an impressively-pretentious end-cap to what was already a fairly grating experience. Hopefully this is the worst I see from the festival this year. If it’s any consolation, it should be difficult to find a film as fundamentally annoying as this one.