Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Priceless - Do Not, Repeat Do Not, Give This Woman Your Mastercard

Priceless -Three days playing "uncle" to gold digger Irene (Audrey Tautou) on the French Riviera? - $17,486. Winning her cynical heart? Priceless.

Irene, a well-equipped niece if ever there was one, seems mercenary to the core when she meets Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a shy, overworked bar tender in a five star hotel. First she seduces him, believing (with a little help from Jean) that he is a rich hotel guest. Irene's wealthy fiance notices her dalliance and dumps her. She tries to liaise with Jean on a more permanent basis, then learns he is a lowly hotel employee and races to the Riviera to find another sugar daddy. Jean trails her like a lovesick bloodhound. When a simple "get lost" doesn't keep Jean out of her way, Irene decides to let him join her, but only for a few days. That's all she needs to bankrupt Jean with a non-stop spending spree. The sound of the machine processing Jean's credit card when Irene makes her first purchase at Jean's expense is the sound of a cell door clanging shut, one of several nice comic touches from Director Pierre Salvadori. The hotel discovers Jean can't afford his bill, but just as the manager phones the police, Jean is enlisted as a gigolo by Madeline (Marie-Christine Adam). This keeps him near his adored Irene, who shows him some tricks of the trade. Eventually the reluctant gigolo wins the gold digger's heart and they embark together on a motor scooter ride into the unknown future, penniless and happy.

In some ways, this is a very French film, it features luxurious settings in Paris and Nice, depicts a society that accepts gigolos and "nieces" without question and deftly doles out an engaging blend of farcical and sophisticated humor that keeps the audience smiling wryly with an occasional chuckle. Even had I missed those cues, I would have noticed that I was reading subtitles while everyone in the film spoke French. In other ways, the film could play in Peoria. Yes, no one seems to mind that Irene is basically a hooker, but it's the dogged, unquestioning romantic love of Jean that wins the day. True, there's no car chase, but the elimination of transitional action scenes that would not aid plot, character or comedy actually speeds the film and avoids what might otherwise have been a serious pacing problem.

Priceless? As Good As News would not go that far, but the film is worth seeing. A nice movie for a date if you are going out, definitely worthy of a rental.

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