La Petite Lili Movie Review
In this adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull, Sagnier gets fourth billing, yet the title would indicate she's center stage. Well, in a way, she is. Without her zombified, dazed expression and bimbo haircut, Sagnier provides the sexual energy that makes this story work at all: She's the central cog in a love quadrangle, which involves an aging actress, her old director of a beau, a young upstart director, and of course, Lili. The older couple and the younger couple drift apart because of the old man's wandering eye -- and who can blame him? And Lili sees a career boost in the old man, whereas the young director (Robinson Stévenin) is still working through his experimental -- and awful -- phase of filmmaking.
Over the first hour of the film -- and largely at dinner table conversations in a French cottage -- this all gets hashed out, and every character reveals himself or herself to be largely shallow, stereotypically angst-ridden, generally devoid of anything worth listening to. But just when you think everything is going to rumble to a halt, Miller takes the film in a direction entirely unexpected (and, needless to say, breaking with Chekhov). The film jumps five years ahead and catches up with our young director. Basically, he's sold out and made good. So has Lili: She's on the cover of every magazine in France. And now our director gets his revenge, of sorts: He is making a movie about that summer in the French cottage.
What you make of all of this will depend on your tolerance for chatty French people upset about how their lives are turning out. There's not a lot that happens in Lili -- just as the end result of The Seagull is that nothing changes -- so those hoping for a dramatic finish are going to come up short. The conversations in Lili aren't entirely banal, but they're nothing we haven't heard before. Updating them for the zeroes and moving them out of Russia doesn't really change anything.