Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Posted as part of Operation 101010
Category: impulse buys / In category: 4 of 10 / Overall: 41 of 100

Why buy?

Audrey Tautou’s in it.


Dude, I didn’t need any reason beyond that.

The expectation

A sparkling if lightweight romantic comedy.

The actuality

‘Priceless’ occupies the middle ground between ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘Pretty Woman’. For all that it made Audrey Hepburn an icon, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is a vapid film about shallow people. For all that it made Julia Roberts a star, the same goes for ‘Pretty Woman’.

Audrey Tautou came to ‘Priceless’ already an icon thanks to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amelie’. That film was a delight: warm, funny, entertaining, imaginative and utterly life-affirming. ‘Priceless’ is about attractive people with a taste for the high life who shack up with rich older people and basically leech off them. I was tempted to phrase that last sentence in shorter, punchier fashion as “people who fuck other people for money”. But for all that la belle Audrey floats through the proceedings modelling a series of clinging, diaphanous and generally revealing outfits, Pierre Salvadori’s film never truly gets down and dirty with the more salacious aspects of its narrative.

The plot: Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a bartender at a posh Riviera hotel, is mistaken by gold digger Irene (Tautou) for a high roller. By the time she realises her error, Irene’s indiscretion with Jean has cost her the companionship of her latest sugar daddy. Alone and having to make do without her customary access to unlimited credit, Irene desperately tries to find another filthy rich consort. Meanwhile, having figured out that materialism is the way to Irene’s heart, Jean reinvents himself as a gigolo.

Now, this kind of scenario could work as a metaphor for the moral bankruptcy of both the moneyed classes and those who aspire to be part of same. Some razor-sharp satirical comedy could have been created, but only if the filmmakers were critical of the characters and their actions. As it is, Salvadori seems to be winkingly encouraging of their vacuity.

At best, it’s a pacy enough timewaster graced by better performances than its script and direction had any right to achieve. Elmaleh plays Jean with enough rumpled hangdog charm to merit a soupcon of empathy, while Tautou – svelte, elegant and so meltingly lovely that she could play Lucrezia Borgia or Elizabeth Bathory and you’d still spend the movie dreamily falling for her – is the ideal romantic heroine never mind that Irene is a money-grubbing little slapper about as far removed from Amelie as you can get.

At worst, it’s a depressingly empty piece of work. If it had come out of Hollywood riding the coat-tails of one of the ‘Sex in the City’ movies, you could shake your head, shrug your shoulders and grumble that it was only to be expected. But it came out of France, a country – nay, a culture – that has always (and with plentiful justification) prided itself on its ongoing contribution to world cinema. Not this time, mes amis.

Good buy/bad buy?
Bad buy. We’re talking a once-only viewing experience here.

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