Juliette Binoche Stars in ‘Non-Fiction,’ a Comedy About Book Publishing and Adultery : NPR

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Juliette Binoche stars in a satirical comedy and intellectual puzzle about publishing and adultery titled Nonfiction.



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Juliette Binoche’s new film “Non-Fiction” is total fiction, an invented comedy about book publishing and adultery. But if you know anything about any of these topics, reviewer Bob Mondello says you’ll recognize a few kernels of truth.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Leonard is a writer specializing in what you might call autobio-fiction. He writes salacious novels based on his own stuff, which the literary world has long understood and which his longtime editor Alain is beginning to find distasteful. The books are sordid, Alain tells his wife, Selena, and repetitive.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE FILM, “NON-FICTION”)

GUILLAUME CANET: (Like Alain, speaking French).

MONDELLO: Is this novel, she wonders lazily, about a recent affair?

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE FILM, “NON-FICTION”)

JULIETTE BINOCHE: (As Selena, speaking French).

CANET: (Like Alain, speaking French).

MONDELLO: Selena’s question is not entirely in vain. Though she’s a glamorous actress and writer Leonard is as crumpled as an unmade bed, the case her latest book is about is theirs. And much to Selena’s chagrin, Leonard kept it a secret from her husband claiming that the character he based on her was based on another TV star.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE FILM, “NON-FICTION”)

BINOCHE: (Like Selena, speaking French).

VINCENT MACAIGNE: (Like Léonard, speaking French).

BINOCHE: (Like Selena, speaking French).

MONDELLO: Before you start complaining too much about Selena’s husband, Alain, let’s note that he also has an affair – it’s a French film – with a young consultant he hired to train his publishing house in the digital age. Their after-love conversations find her saying things like tweets are haikus, and texting is writing. Alain wonders if Kindle has made printed novels obsolete. And as they debate the future of publishing, Selena fights a little less nuanced with drug dealers on her TV show.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE FILM, “NON-FICTION”)

MONDELLO: French director Olivier Assayas is just the guy to make it all both bubbly and intellectually engaging. His films are always centered on characters who talk and talk. And having them talk about post-truth society and the democratization of literature seems to bring out its more cosmopolitan impulses. He’s aided by a cast that includes scene-stealing actress Nora Hamzawi who makes her debut as Leonard’s wife and the sublime Juliette Binoche as Selena, a woman who can emerge from a marital crisis and wield a firearm.

Binoche also plays with a nice joke inside. At one point, the crumpled writer and the editor he cuckolds try to think of a celebrity who could voice their audiobook. Guess whose name comes up.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE FILM, “NON-FICTION”)

CANET: (Like Alain, speaking French).

MACAIGNE: (Like Leonard, speaking French).

MONDELLO: With Binoche sitting right there as Selena, the filmmakers have a cinematic equivalent for the literary games they’ve played. “Non-Fiction” is always that kind of smarts, whether its characters are about binge-watching television or the fact that people willing to pay $1,500 for a computer don’t want to pay 50 cents for a newspaper. It is about life as it is lived in sophisticated Parisian circles. And where Leonard obviously follows the maxim, write what you know, “Non-Fiction” suggests that filming what you know can work too, as long as a director is having as much fun as Assayas makes the literal literal. I am Bob Mondello.

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