Friday, May 23, 2008

Priceless (***)


Priceless/Hors de Prix (2006, France, 104 minutes)
Director: Pierre Salvadori
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christian Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff
Tagline: "She only dated men with money...until she met a man with a heart."

I'm not particularly fond of French comedies, recently having been unable to get past the 10-minute mark in Moroccan-born Gad Elmaleh's previous star-vehicle The Valet (La Doublure), but even at their most insipid they hold the promise of seeing beautiful (often rich) people set against beautiful scenery. And Priceless (Hors de Prix) has the most beautiful of all people, Audrey Tautou, set against the most beautiful of all backdrops, the French Riviera. So, on the strength of Sun film critic Michael Sragow's favorable write-up (he gave it a B) and Mam'selle Amelie, I saw Priceless Friday night at the Landmark Theatre, where everybody else was packed into three theatres to see the new Indiana Jones flick. (Well, to be perfectly honest, I meant to see Rambow, but either Landmark Theatre or the Baltimore Sun posted the wrong screening time in the newspaper. Hmmmffpphhtt!)

Here's what Variety said:
A gold digger on the French Riviera unexpectedly meets her match in a mild-mannered bartender in "Priceless." Bittersweet comedy's perfectly chosen multigenerational cast ably demonstrates that if money can't buy love, it sure can purchase lots of obsequious service from four-star hotel staffers and costly goodies from laughably pricey boutiques. Co-scripter/helmer Pierre Salvadori serves up an enjoyable riff on genuine romance versus the pay-as-you-go variety, in crowd-pleasing, exportable pic.

Here's what I said:
Priceless is not priceless. Certainly not at its current market value at the Landmark of $10.50 a ticket. But it is an enjoyable two-hour diversion with a great cast, topped by Tautou as the gold-digger and Gad Emaleh - he of the soulful blue eyes and Buster Keaton long face - as the waiter/dogwalker who would be King. I hadn't seen an Audrey Tautou film since Dirty Pretty Things, so I had forgotten just how truly gorgeous this charming gamine really is. (There's even a brief glimpse of her breasts in morning-after scene, for those who follow this sort of thing.) Add a snazzy/peppy toe-tapping soundtrack and the where-but-for-the-grace-of-winning-the-lottery-go-I visuals of Monaco's beach resorts, and it's a total feel-good experience. And, as Variety pointed out, the attention to wardrobe and accessories - Guccis, Diors, Chanels, oh my! - begats a language unto itself, one that only fashionistas like "snow brown" at Fashionowy could truly appreciate. Read the designer wardrobe breakdown and release your Inner Metrosexual.

I'm sure my cineaste colleague Marc Sober would point out the narrative similarities to Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise (1932), but Hors de Prix adds the beautiful south of France setting, filmed in sun-soaked primary colors, that's really hard to beat.


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