Director: Pierre Salvadori (After You, The Sandman)
Writers: Benoît Graffin, Pierre Salvadori
Producer: Philippe Martin
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 104 min
For those looking for something that’s quality, but still sitting firmly in the world of fluff, you don’t really have to look much further than Priceless. Priceless takes cues from everything from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Heartbreakers to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and somewhere caught in the mix is the lovely Audrey Tautou and the comedic Gad Elmaleh.
Tautou plays Irène, a devious, gold digging pseudo-sophisticate playing at older men’s fantasies in order to survive. And by “survive” I mean $600 blouses and $30,000 bracelets to wear to a dinner that costs more than the GDP of a third world country. Jean (Elmaleh) is a bellhop/bartender at a
French hotel; and while he isn’t starving, he’s not exactly making ends meet. When Irène confuses Jean for a wealthy business tycoon, he plays the charade as long as he can and milks it until she discovers he’s a nothing. After she leaves, Jean does everything in his power to win her back; going so far as to stooping to her level and running the same scheme she does. At one point, the two actually trade secret strategies as how to get what you want from the rich.
Tautou has really shed her sweet girl persona for this role. Yes, she’s still gorgeous (maybe more gorgeous than she’s ever looked), but for most of this picture, she’s become a vixen in disguise; a thoroughly unlikeable character that one wonders if the scenario that unfolds is even particularly believable. Why would someone as nice and charming as Jean, be willing to do nearly anything to have this despicable woman? But she’s really pretty and she’s already seduced him once, so we just go with it.
While Tautou is the name of the show, Elmaleh has the difficult task of providing comedic relief in the lead role; while at the same time being believable and empathetic. While the humor here is very low key and relies mostly on uncomfortable moments and gimmicky physical comedy, Elmaleh pulls off the job fairly well in a “doofus with a heart of gold” kind of way. Not a whole lot of belly laughs to be found, but enough chuckles to keep the story lighthearted and the characters from becoming completely loathsome.
The main problem with the movie is its run-of-the-mill dryness. While it is glitzy at times and quirky fun at others, it’s obvious from second one where the story is going to end up. Just from the trailer I knew that I had already seen the movie basically in its entirety. Still, there’s something about a little fluff on a weeknight to clear the head and provide for some mental health… and quite honestly the eye candy doesn’t hurt either.
Which leads us to the PG-13 rating. The film takes very few chances and in fact, mostly steers far and clear from the bedroom. Aside from a nipple slip here and there and several side boob shots, this is about as clean as it can get for a romantic comedy about sleazing (for lack of a better term) for monetary compensation.
So while the story is a bit pretentious, cliched and predictable as you can get, there’s something to be said for the appearance of a throw-back to the golden age of Hollywood in which actors like Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart reigned supreme. And that’s just the sort of vibe something as charming as Priceless presents itself as.