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  Chéri Mon Amour
Year: 2009
Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, Rupert Friend, Felicity Jones, Frances Tomelty, Anita Pallenberg, Harriet Walter, Iben Hjejle, Toby Kebbell, Nichola McAuliffe, Joe Sheridan, Rollo Weeks, Natasha Cashman, Gaye Brown, Jack Walker, Hubert Tellegen
Genre: RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cast your mind back to 2006 and you might remember a British film making waves across the pond. A film reminiscent of an episode of Alistair McGowan’s Big Impressions, albeit with a little more class in the form of Helen Mirren. Yes, I’m talking about The Queen, a triumph by anyone’s standards, no more so than for its director Stephen Frears.

Frears is one of those people in the industry, whose name you can never quite place. Sure, you know he’s famous but you couldn’t name any of his work straight off, but then eureka! you remember the remarkable My Beautiful Laundrette (written by Hanif Kureishi and released in 1985). The list goes on though, with the more recent hit High Fidelity (2000), arthouse-flick Dirty Pretty Things (2002) and the amiable Mrs Henderson Presents (2005).

Missing from that list is Dangerous Liasons (1988), a film about lust, seduction and revenge (as the tagline put it), which starred Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. Frears’s latest outing, Chéri, marks not only a return in collaboration with Pfeiffer, but a return to France and a departure back into the past.

1906, to be precise, and times they are a’changing; and not just because it’s the turn of the 20th century. For some it’s that time in life, which comes to us all, where it’s time to change. And so we meet our protagonists, Léa (Pfeiffer) and Fred (nicknamed Chéri and played by Rupert Friend), who are both in a position to modify their lives.

For Léa the choice isn’t so much her own; she’s a prostitute (sorry, courtesan) in her early forties whose demand from clients is fading fast, and she knows it. Chéri on the other hand is building up quite an inventory of lady-friends, and a reputation his mother, Madame Peloux (played by the insatiable Kathy Bates), would like to put to, ahem, bed.

Being a crafty so-and-so, Mme Peloux calls upon her old friend Léa to help her out. One kiss from Chéri and she’s quite taken with the spoilt young man, so much so that they end up spending six years holed-up together, doing what they do best (you get the picture). It seems that, for the first time, Léa has opened her heart and fallen in love with the young fellow.

However, wily old Mme Peroux has other ideas for her son’s affections and sets him up with young Edmée (Felicity Jones), the daughter of another cocotte companion. Endearingly she tells Léa that it is because she wishes to be a grandmother, but, of course, we all know the pairing has more to do with the money that will come with it.

Léa is forced to conceal her true feelings for her beau, instead warning him against causing pain to his soon-to-be bride – meaning that she won't be available to him when he returns from honeymoon. Indeed she won’t; her embarrassment at the love affair sees her flee to beautiful Biarritz, comforting herself in the arms of a new would-be suitor. But the comfort of another is not enough of either of them, so how will they get on?

The answer lies in the rest of the film, of course, which is a pleasant enough event. Pfeiffer has never looked so incandescent as she does in Chéri, against the charming backdrop of the early part of the 20th century; her style, reminiscent of pre-Raphaelite paintings from that period, shines. So too do the performances of old-timer Kathy Bates and new-comers Felicity Jones and Rupert Friend – 2009 for this Orlando look-alike looks set to be his year.

Sure, it ambles along at a nice little pace, before falling slightly short of its expectations at the end – or maybe that’s the problem, it’s all too inevitable. Nonetheless, and I mean this in the nicest way, it’s film that should be proud of its status as one worthy of a viewing from the sofa on a Sunday afternoon.
Reviewer: Hannah Tough

 

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