May 29, 2008


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Priceless (PG-13)
Mistaken identity leads a besotted hotel bartender into the strange and glamorous world of gold diggers in Priceless, an odd, very French but rather cute romantic comedy.

Jean (Gad Elmaleh) is a sweet and somewhat goofy bartender who falls asleep on the job and is awoken by the sexy and glamorous Irene (Audrey Tautou), a gold-digger who has stepped out for a drink after her wealthy much older boyfriend falls asleep. She sees a tuxedo-wearing Jean and thinks heís another one of the hotelís wealthy young guests. He plays along because, well, did I mention the sexy and glamorous? They spend the night together and in the morning Irene slips away. A year later, Irene is back at the same hotel and ready for more time with Jean. This time, however, her older boyfriend falls asleep early and wakes up early, catching Irene sneaking back in. Irene is out on her expensive heels and decides to go jump on the Jean money train. Except, as she soon learns, itís really less of a train and more of a bicycle, or maybe just a money good-pair-of-shoes.

Because this a French romantic comedy and the more farcical and fantastical the better, Irene and Jeanís relationship doesnít end there but develops to the point where Jean suddenly finds himself with a sugar mama at the same time as Irene is cultivating a new sugar daddy. Not well-versed in the ways of being a wealthy personís arm candy, Jean takes lessons from Irene on how to be a gold-digger.

This sounds absurd but if you saw The Valet, another French comedy starring Elmaleh that made its way to indie theaters in our neck of the woods, youíll like that this kind of story can actually work. Maybe itís because of the Frenchness ó there is some kind of extra suspension of disbelief that comes with having a movie in a language that isnít your own ó or maybe itís because of the quirky charm of Elmaleh but Priceless seems mostly sweet and light even though movies about this kind of thing are usually sleazy and a little creepy (with the exception, I guess, of Pretty Woman; I guess Julia Roberts has honorary French status). Iíve seen descriptions of this movie where Tautou is compared to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanyís. On looks alone Iíd accept that comparison, though her Irene seems a little more grounded and a little less mannered than Holly Golightly. This movie also has more fun than that movie did ó very little in the way of tortured morality, much more in the way of funny bits about how to enchant a mark.

And, as elegant and glamorous as Tautou is, itís really Elmaleh who makes it work. He has a shlubby awkward quality, not unlike a Judd Apatow character or even an Adam Sandler-ish man boy but heís allowed a bit more smarts and just the right amount of earnestness to make him believable as a competitor for Tautouís heart. B-

Rated PG-13 for sexual content including nudity. Directed by Pierre Salvadori and written by Benoit Graffin and Salvadori, Priceless (Hors de prix in French, with English subtitles) is an hour and 44 minutes long and is distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films.