Based on the novel by celebrated French writer Colette (1873-1954), ChÃ©ri sees director Stephen Frears back to the costume drama genre which cemented his reputation with 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons. He’s also back in France, this time during La Belle Epoque at the end of the 19th century, when courtesans were the celebrities du jour.
Lea de Lonvan (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a retiring courtesan who has never fallen in love until she meets 19-year-old ChÃ©ri (Rupert Friend), the only son of former courtesan Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates), and promptly spends the following six years in a state of domestic bliss. However, when Charlotte decides to arrange a marriage for ChÃ©ri with the daughter of yet another courtesan, each loses ‘the only really honourable thing’ in their lives.
The plot veers from frivolous to tragic in the blink of an eye; the dialogue is stunningly vitriolic, while being delivered with a sweet smile (particularly the scenes between Pfeiffer and Bates) and the three leads are superb: Pfeiffer is deliciously restrained as the aging beauty, Bates is a powerhouse of venom as the dowager queen of ex-whores, and Friend’s foppish fancy-boy is equal parts Pete Doherty and Oscar Wilde.
It’s opulently shot, with stunning costumes and sumptuous locations, and yet there’s just not enough meat on ChÃ©ri‘s bones to elevate it to the same heights as Frears’ finest moments. That said, there’s far worse ways of spending an hour and a half than with this flippant but funny comedy drama.
Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Extras: Making Of, Deleted Scenes, Trailer, Photo Gallery.
For Fans Of: Dangerous Liaisons, Moulin Rouge