Monday, May 19, 2008

Priceless - B+

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 104 minutes. Trailer.

As a French romantic comedy, this is a movie I shouldn't have liked. Funny thing is, the Euro sensibilities and liberal attitude toward relationships and sex are what freed this film up to be one of the most enjoyable of the year so far. A smoldering Audrey Tautou (Amelie, Da Vinci Code) stars as Irene, the classic bimbo on a quest to land a wealthy man, no matter the age difference. Gad Elmaleh co-stars as Jean, the hotel waiter that falls in love with Irene and pursues her.

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After a chance encounter wherein Irene mistakes Jean for a wealthy hotel patron and the two end up in bed, Irene goes back to her 'lover', a wealthy 60+ man that buys her whatever she wants. The two meet again the following year, and Irene's old man lover finds out about their trysts, ending their relationship just before the marriage Irene has been searching for. Irene bails on Jean immediately upon learning he is just a regular guy, breaking Jean's heart. After she relocates to Nice, he finds her and pursues her until the little money he has runs out. She is falling for him, but lets her ambition take over and moves on to the next conquest. Jean gets unwittingly co-opted into being a gigolo himself, servicing an older French woman in order to prolong his stay in Nice. He and Irene bond and share scamming secrets and the story ends with a satisfying twist.

The film works as a love story, a comedy, and a cynical commentary on women. Jean starts out as a hapless and dorky (and thus sympathetic) suitor for the dazzling and glamorous Irene, but ends up a stylish scammer in his own right. His dogged pursuit in the face of disappointment after disappointment is a great love story. Irene's pathetic existence and her resistance to true love with a pauper play out effectively, with Tautou giving a great performance as a sort of Audrey Hepburn/Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. There are several funny moments in the film and loads of quality dialogue as Irene easily uses her youth, beauty and charm to prey upon the weakness of male ego and desire. The sequence when she is bleeding Jean dry and knows it is my favorite of the film, and both actors handle the scenes perfectly.

I don't think the film would work as an American movie, because the themes are too immoral. For instance, when Irene is sneaking off to see Jean, she can't leave because her 'lover' won't stop talking, so she satisfies him in order to get to Jean and their secret rendezvous. Tortured logic to say the least. All in all, a very good movie with only a few spots where it dragged. A cut of about 10 minutes would've improved the quality a great deal, but still kept it at (barely) a B+.


Lawyer said...

Priest - Doc and I talked last night and we need the Redbelt review, homeboy.

priest said...

Fair enough.

regarding priceless, i give it a very enthusiastic B, although I toyed with a B+. the locations are breath-taking. it reminded me of lost in translation in that it does a remarkably good job of conveying a particular feeling, in this case the feeling of being rich, sleeping on egyptian cotton, and going on sun-drenched strolls through the mediterranean. the plot is a reworking of breakfast at tiffany's. it's interesting to note that the internal morality (or lack thereof) you mention that would keep the film from working as an american film didn't seem to bother anyone back in the 50's with Tiffany's. and tautao is so smoking hot.