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PRICELESS (Hors de Prix)

  Publicity Stills of "Priceless"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

In French with English Subtitles
Director: Pierre Salvadori
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff, Jacques Spiesser, Annelise Hesme
RunTime: 1 hr 44 mins
Released By: Shaw & Festive Films
Rating: NC-16 (Brief Nudity)
Official Website: www.festivefilms.com/priceless

Opening Day: 10 May 2007


Jean, a shy waiter working in a grand hotel, is mistaken for a young millionaire by beautiful, scheming adventuress Irene. When she discovers his lowly status, Irene beats a quick retreat. But love struck Jean has no intention of letting her escape, and pursues her to the Cote d'Azur. Quickly running out of money, he adopts his beloved's lifestyle, setting himself up as a gigolo and moving into a magnificent luxury hotel. Irene at last accepts this new Jean. She starts to give him advice, she grows closer and closer to him, not realizing that love is working its subtle magic on her too.

Movie Review:

The French are the masters of nuances, while the Americans are, perhaps, the proponents of dramatics. When it comes to romantic comedies, both can claim to have mastered it, but it very different ways. The French in their often delightfully light, posh and teasingly picturesque take of love while the Americans excel in their brash yet endearing rom-coms; There’s Something About Mary comes to mind. Priceless comes across as a distinctly American comedy by design that is neatly executed to a T, French style, and a such comes across as a light and flaky croissant overwhelmed by thick, sugary jam. It is delightfully enjoyable, but overly saccharine and shallow.

Audrey Tatou produces another polished performance as a social butterfly who is actually a seductive leech of rich men, in disguise. She meets Gad Elmaleh’s bartender character Jean in a comically unthinkable happenstance that triggers an attraction between the two. Jean then whines and dines Audrey’s smitten character Irene, who is oblivious to Jean’s untoward use of his staff position to paint a false picture of himself. Irene eventually discovers the truth and proceeds to shake off a dogged Jean, only for the two to realise that their lives in the very short term future will be romantically and comically intertwined.

The film is shot in beautiful Cote D’Azur, which is, well, beautiful, by prior knowledge. However, the film’s abysmal lack of wide shots that take advantage of the scenery is glaringly evident. Shopping in boutiques fail to convey the glamourous, high-life of the location and Jean, in his later state of affluence, rides a monstrously luxuriant scooter. Perhaps the movie was squeezed into a Roman Holidays and Audrey Hepburn mould but in truth, the makes seem more confused than anything.

Firstly, the dialogue was purely in French. Unfortunately, the character of the dialogue was distinctively American. Or at least, the dubbing was. Tatou’s character comes across as a bumbling, unglamourous wannabe who flips on her high life persona as fast as it takes for her to snap her fingers, something that called out so much for a Penelope Cruz or a Cameron Diaz. Gad’s character was, similarly, a man completely oblivious to his own immense charm and goes on a small journey of self-discovery as the movie goes on. Cue John Cusack anyone? Priceless tries to combine the rich charm of its French character and atmosphere with a more mainstream and appealing screenplay and as such, produces a film that is entertaining but eventually neither here (French ritzy, opulent chic) nor there (American beguiling and enchanting romance).

That should not, however, detract one from the fact that Priceless is a movie that anyone would certainly enjoy. Gad Elmaleh executes such endearing charm and wittiness that totally catches you off-guard all the time. His performance, for me, overshadows Tatou’s astute execution of her character which, unfortunately, perhaps due to the high standards she set in Amelie, comes off as expectedly polished not particularly eye-catching this time around.

We see the classic scenes of the self-assured and pompous Irene gagging over a drink seeing the Jean enter the same restaurant, while the pair try to avoid blatant states and looks at the other as they work their various tricks. We also see the textbook commentary on love as Irene teaches Jean how to use and harness his charm, to hilarious results.

Perhaps the major drawback of the film is the undoubtedly unfortunate circumstance and nature of their relationship that pencils a bitter shade on this romantic comedy. You’ll without a doubt enjoy the humour and refreshing inventiveness in executing scenes and plotlines that are so classic and potentially overdone. Do not, however, dwell to deeply on relationships and their true meaning and nature. This is something Priceless is clearly not about. Priceless is perhaps most French in its dwelling in the charm, character and nuances of its two leads. As such, it serves up a French take and rendering of a modern Hollywood rom-com screenplay; resulting in a delightfully fluffy, romantic comedy that most people would enjoy.

Movie Rating:

(A plot, screenplay and casting that would perhaps be better off executed Hollywood style)

Review by Daniel Lim


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