The tawdry lives of the wealthy and more or less pointless is the sort of thing that people find it difficult to really fix a stance on. Most everyone, when push comes to shove, finds themselves on both sides of this fence. In some situations putting forward the idea that gossip is at least less than dignified, in others watching Entertainment Tonight (or whatever) anyway.
Cheri makes for a difficult time if we think too much about it, because it is basically just gossiping at you, and it takes place in a setting of gossip run wild. It’s hard to know where the movie wants you to stand, and at times you find yourself feeling like the odd man out at a dinner party where you don’t know anyone, constantly shifting to different spots in the room.
The story is that of Lea (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is more or less on her way out as one of the legendary courtesans of the early 20th Century in Paris. She finds herself living with Cheri, the 19 year-old son of one of her former rivals, Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates). The entire affair happens almost by accident, and before Lea is sure what’s going on, it is suddenly six years later, and Cheri is still living with her.
Unfortunately, Madame Peloux has arranged a marriage for Cheri, and he goes along with it, almost purely from a sense of uncertainty. Isn’t he supposed to get married to someone his age, as opposed to continuing on with an ex-prostitute twenty years his senior? It sounds so good on paper.
Cheri is the sort of film that plays out in a way that makes it hard to pin down how interested it even is in itself or what it is saying, much less insofar as what you are meant to take away. A love story of the oddest sort, focusing on people that are difficult to like, the movie somehow manages to tell an engaging story, almost while defying you to pay attention.
Directed by Stephen Frears, it isn’t surprising that the movie relies on a lot of dialog, and witty banter is the main force at work. It occasionally goes wrong though, largely because it seems the actors are not particularly adroit at seriously intelligent conversation. Getting that snappy comeback out quickly is all well and good, but really clever people talking is not simply people talking as fast as they can.
On the other hand, the majority of what is best about French novelist Collete’s book comes through, and the examination of the life and times is pretty thorough. Moreover, it is decidedly relevant.
Nominated for the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, the film is most definitely worth attention.
Leave a comment below and include the word, “Win,” and you are automatically entered to win your very own DVD copy. U.S. and Canada only. Winner will be randomly selected on Nov. 25th.
Featurette: Courteseans (bonus)
Related articles by Zemanta
- Chéri (cinemablend.com)