Legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve delivers the top female performance of 2020 to date in the “The Truth”. If you’re a long-time fan of the Oscar nominee (and two-time Cesar Awards winner), and if you enjoy movies about the making of movies, then put this on your MUST list for 4th of July Weekend viewing.
Deneuve plays… a legendary French actress. Fabienne Dangeville has seen and done it all. And so it was time to write a memoir. Her new tell-all, The Truth, has just been published. To celebrate release of the book, Fabienne’s screenwriter daughter Lumir (played by fellow iconic French actress Juliette Binoche) pays a visit to her mother’s palatial Paris estate. Lumir’s American actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and their young daughter Charlotte come along for the visit. The reunion ignites fireworks.
In the opening scene of “The Truth” Fabienne is being interviewed by a reporter, who quickly discovers she’s as blunt and brutally honest as it gets. That characteristic carries-over to interactions with her family members, co-workers and colleagues, as well. Nothing (and no one) is off-limits. Fabienne, we learn, has more love for her fans than her family (though little Charlotte may change that).
Fabienne delivers scathing opinions of fellow actresses (living and dead). She believes “internet series” are an “imitation” of true acting (Hank simply has to bite his tongue). And if an actor works for a political or charitable cause, he/she has given-up the art form of make believe and moved onto trying to act in reality.
Whoa. Her zingers and ruthless commentary are fascinating and enlightening. Writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda’s dialogue is deliciously raw and real. And Deneuve adeptly walks the line between outlandish and subdued. If “The Truth” was an American film, even our greatest actresses (i.e. Meryl Streep) likely would’ve gone too over-the-top with this role. Deneuve’s vigor is the strength and draw of this film.
“The Truth” has a number of other good things going for it. Along with Binoche (who can play Fabienne in the remake in 20 years), Mamon Clevel is quite good as Fabienne’s co-star in the new film she’s appearing in while her family’s in town. There are also nice subplots involving Charlotte and a garden turtle and even “The Wizard of Oz”.
Of course, this story framework isn’t new. There have been plenty of mother-daughter relationship sagas (even some with a filmmaking component, such as 2016’s “The Meddler”). And the casting of Hawke as a struggling, second-rate TV actor still looking for his big, leading-man break, was a mistake. Hawke’s star status makes that character hard to accept.
But it’s easy to overlook “The Truth”‘s few flaws. Thanks to Deneuve and Binoche, a blistering script and intense vision, this is (truthfully) one of the most entertaining movie experiences of the year.
LCJ GRADE: B+
Running Time: 106 min.