Chéri


Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by:Christopher Hampton
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, Rupert Friend, Felicity Jones, Frances Tomelty
Released: July 23, 2009
Grade: A-

A mix of both comedy and drama, Chéri is a delightful romantic flick that left me grinning from ear to ear.  It is based on the novel from author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette and comes with an edgy storyline and witty dialogue.  They are two valued ingredients in my book.

Set in the early 20th Century, Lea de Lonval (Pfeiffer) is a retired courtesan living in Paris.  She has a comfortable lifestyle and she spends most of her days socialising with friends.  One such acquaintance is Madame Peloux (Bates), a formal rival in the courtesan business.

Madame Peloux has a 19-year-old son named Chéri (Friend), who up until this point has lived a life of debauchery.  Chéri has always had a soft spot for Lea and after spending some time together, the pair find themselves in a relationship.

Yes, there is a huge age difference but neither seems to care.  They are an ideal fit.  Chéri draws on Lea’s maturity and easy-going nature.  Lea draws on Chéri’s youth and exuberance.  In all they would spend six very happy years together.

Unfortunately, it is something that cannot last and this is where the dramatic elements of the film take hold.  Madame Peloux has arranged for Chéri to be married.  She has found a suitably wealthy candidate and the wheels are in motion.

Neither Lea nor Chéri wish to be parted but neither has the courage to stand up and fight.  Lea tries to convince herself that this was inevitable.  Chéri was always going to leave her eventually and find a much younger someone with whom he could start a family.  Chéri doesn’t want to upset his overbearing mother and goes along with the arrangement to keep her satisfied.

What will become of this divided duo?  Can they bury their grief and move on with their lives?  Or will their bond be too difficult to break?  I don’t want to reveal too much but let me say that the final scene in this film is the best ending to a film I’ve seen all year.  It’s bold, it’s risky and it’s shocking.  I loved it.

Where has Michelle Pfeiffer been of late?  According to the Internet Movie Database, this is only her 8th film in the past 10 years.  You’d think that someone of her talent would have landed more roles.  Perhaps she’s been choosy with her projects?  When you see her in Chéri you’ll be reminded about how enchanting she can be.  Kathy Bates also deserves a tick as Madame Peloux.

This is wonderful film headed by two experienced guys who know how to tell a good story.  Stephens Frears directed The Queen, Mrs Henderson Presents and High Fidelity.  Christopher Hampton adapted the screenplays for Atonement and The Quiet American.  Together, they have crafted a sumptuous cinematic feast.