|'something approaching a cops and robbers drama, without the cops'|
Romain Duris, the French Tom Cruise - ever-charming, very rarely playing anyone other than himself - swans in to The Big Picture a successful lawyer, about to inherit a large firm and swans out of it a master photographer, on the verge of his big break. At no point did I believe Duris character was capable of either of these things, but somehow he sells this - and a cameo at the end of the first act as a type of criminal - and you go along with him regardless.
Duris takes you with him on effortless charm honed during the effective opening first half hour, where his knowledgeable character is built up as a caring, humour-filled Dad, who works hard and has justified suspicion towards his wife. He shares a warm relationship with his work partner, a bit part taken by Catherine Deneuve, and the film marches on towards an effective switch at the half way point, which pivots us into much more interesting territory.
The Big Picture changes here into something approaching a cops and robbers drama, without the cops. Paul Exben (Duris) changes with it, for a time, into the calmest accidental criminal cinema has ever seen. Even with that, Eric Lartigau's film takes you with it on a wave of intrigue - both criminal and lifestyle related, as Exben abandons what he has known as everyday and opts for something else, sometime in the company of Niels Arestrup's perma-drunk Bartholomé.
If it could just continue like this, The Big Picture was really on to something and certainly director and star walk away with a lot of credit. The problem is that Lartigau, who also wrote the script, with several collaborators, forgot to include an end. The Big Picture is truly one of those productions which just finishes. There's no connection between the interesting first half and the interesting second half. There's nothing in the conclusion that nods to the opening and the fifteen minutes before the end isn't that connected either, leaving Exben's closing frame nod towards a character he only met five minutes beforehand, incredibly empty.
Unsurprisingly, for a film with one of the most meaningless endings in recent memory, The Big Picture leaves a slightly sour, empty taste, making a lot of Duris' charm pointless. This narrative was never going anywhere from the very start, no matter how well you can see him selling it to you.