Chéri (2009)

Chéri is the movie adaptation of the book (and it’s sequel) by Colette. It was directed by Stephen Frears and stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend and Kathy Bates.

Belle Epoque in France. The ageing courtesan Léa (Michelle Pfeiffer) just ended her latest relationship and is considering her lifestyle: Is it really still necessary to do her job? What else would she do? It’s at that point that her best friend Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates) facilitates a meeting between Léa and Peloux’s son, Chéri (Rupert Friend). Chéri kind of ambles through life and doesn’t really know what to do with himself. His mother thinks that a relationship between him and Léa should be part of his education. And even though Lea is that much older than Chéri, things seem to work out perfectly.

Chéri surprised me. I didn’t expect much (I seem to have read only the bad reviews) but I got a delightful film with wonderful Wilde-esque dialogue, perfect performances, beautiful costumes and a great score (by Alexandre Desplat). It may not be the movie of the year, but it’s really good.

I guess I should have trusted Stephen Frears more than the reviews. I should have known that he delivers high quality movies. But anyway, as I did see the film basically because of his name on the poster, I’m not too cross with myself.

What I find interesting is that, even though the movie is called Chéri and the books (which I haven’t read) seem to be mostly about Chéri, the movie’s focus is on Léa. And rightfully so. Léa is a fascinating woman, whereas Chéri is petulant, flamboyant and a little hard to stand.

Michelle Pfeiffer gave a wonderful performance and next to her, Kathy Bates and Rupert Friend almost disappear. But that doesn’t keep them from doing an awesome job themselves.

The dialogue was wonderful – and I really want to read the books now. Full of one-liners and dry wit, like so:

Léa: What do you expect me to do, go and pine away in Normandy? Stop dyeing my hair? Is that what you want?
Cheri: Yes.
Léa: You’re not the first young man I’ve said goodbye to.
Cheri: Yes, I know, but what I thought might be appropriate is if I were the last.

But most outstanding was the costume and the set design. (See here or here or here.)

Summarising, definitely a movie you should watch.

[Btw: Is anybody else as irritated as I am by how much Rupert Friend looks like Orlando Bloom?]

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