‘Non-fiction:’ To tell the truth
Non-Fiction, the latest film from acclaimed writer/director Olivier Assayas, finds the filmmaker in a loose mood. Eschewing the ethereal tone of such recent works as Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016), this romantic comedy is set against the backdrop of the contemporary publishing world.
Guillaume Canet, at his most rakish, portrays Alain, a handsome and successful publisher. The ageless Juliette Binoche plays Alain’s actress wife Selena, the star of weekly cop series that she finds unfulfilling despite its popularity. Vincent Macaigne plays Leonard, Alain’s best friend, and a sad-sack novelist whose latest work Alain has just rejected – but it’s nothing personal.
The film’s original title, Doubles Vies, is much more apt, as it translates to Double Lies. The narrative is predicated on the casual deceptions of both Alain and Selena, each of whom is having an extra-marital affair – he with his bisexual assistant (Christa Theret), and she with none other than Leonard. But it’s nothing personal.
Non-Fiction is Assayas’s admitted ode to Eric Rohmer, the French filmmaker whose reputation was predicated on such sophisticated comedies as My Night at Maud’s (1969) and Pauline at the Beach (1983). Rohmer enthusiasts find his work to be intelligent and perceptive; his detractors find his work talky and repetitious. With its characters indulging in windy, self-satisfied discourses on love, literature, and relationships, Non-Fiction definitely fits into the Rohmer mode.
Yet there’s really nothing at stake here. Even for their neuroses, the characters are so attractive and, indeed, affluent that their observations and opinions – stated repetitiously – make them seem more shallow than sophisticated. In the end, despite some amusing morsels, this is little ado about little. (In French with English subtitles.)