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Cannes 2024: Gilles Lellouche’s ‘Beating Hearts’ is a Waste of Time


Cannes 2024: Gilles Lellouche’s ‘Beating Hearts’ is a Waste of Time

by
May 25, 2024

This is what it would look like if Michael Bay directed a romantic musical. Though this doesn’t have nearly enough explosions or mind-boggling drone shots to really live up Bay’s movies. Beating Hearts is a big, epic, flashy, cheesy, nearly-three-hour long French love story thriller made by a French filmmaker named Gilles Lellouche. He last directed an absurd comedy called Sink or Swim that played at Cannes 2018, and somehow he was able to secure a Main Competition slot this year at Cannes with his latest titled L’amour ouf in French (or just Beating Hearts in English). For some reason, before its premiere the movie was being referred to as a musical – but it’s not really a musical. More of an epic, sweeping romance like Romeo + Juliet with two big dance sequences and tons of famous songs used in it. But there’s no singing and it’s not a classic musical, it’s a drama about two lovers in France. The story is lifted from the classic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, following young lovers who get split apart for 12 years then attempt to reconnect later on in life.

Beating Hearts is the extraordinarily passionate love story of Jackie and Clotaire (yes, of course they make fun of him for being named Clotaire). The first half stars Mallory Wanecque as Jackie and Malik Frikah as Clotaire as teenagers. They fall madly in love in high school, even when Clotaire’s first interaction with her is making fun of her when she gets off the bus. The end up together, but then – dun, dun, dun – Clotaire falls into crime and becomes the cool new recruit in a local crew that pulls off epic heists (and always gets away by arranging a “fake” wedding also on the same day). The second half stars Adèle Exarchopoulos as Jackie and François Civil as Clotaire, set 12 years after “Cloclo” gets out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Of course, this is always the case with characters like Clotaire. This film is cinematically spectacular but extremely cheesy, and the story is so cliche & derivative it makes none of it exciting at all. Every single moment of this movie is a “been there, done that” generic rehash of the smart, stubborn girl falls for badass, cool crime boy love story. So much of it is laughably cliche and basic though it pretends to be much more.

The other big problem with Beating Hearts is that it’s a wannabe musical that isn’t a real musical. It tries so hard to be a La La Land-esque bright & colorful modern musical, with stunning cinematography on location in an industrial corner of France. But there’s no singing, no real songs that are made for it, just a series of dance sequences and two-and-a-half hours of romantic drama. The rest of the music is a mix of great tracks from The Cure and other 80s bands. Essentially it feels like Lellouche wanted to make a musical but didn’t know how to actually integrate song & dance into this story. So he made a sort-of-musical without singing. The cinematography follows them as they run around their high school, the local dockyards, and other small town vistas, falling in love while doing nothing else except pining for each other. The crime gang Clotaire gets involved with is mildly interesting until you realize everyone on the crew is a one-dimensional cliche. Lellouche doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, of course, but this was like sticking a wagon wheel on a BMW hoping it’ll still hit top speed on the Autobahn. It’s going to crash & burn before it even gets on the highway.

Then there’s the love story that is supposed to be the core of this movie. This is what these “Beating Hearts” are supposed to be beating about. Putting two good-looking people into your movie doesn’t automatically mean they have chemistry nor does it make their love story fascinating. I thought they weren’t even allowed to make movies with a plot this unoriginal anymore – it’s the most banal relationship ever. Smart girl with the bad boy. And that’s it? Unfortunately yes. This three hours spent on that basic of a love story? By the time we get to the part of the story where Adèle Exarchopoulos shows up, even she seems like she doesn’t want to be in this movie anymore, serving up an entirely lackluster performance where she’s supposed to have dormant feelings for this guy she hasn’t seen in 12 years. This is after she marries some slick asshole (Vincent Lacoste) who fires her from her job then hits on her. Isn’t this kind of misogynistic storytelling illegal? I guess not in France yet. This movie is an epic waste of three hours that doesn’t offer a single ounce of anything tantalizing or exciting or romantic in its many widescreen vistas. It’s derivative filmmaking at its worst and hopefully will be ignored by audiences. Just watch La La Land or Cherbourg again instead of this.

Alex’s Cannes 2024 Rating: 3 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing

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