Film, Comedy
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars
The multi-talented and adaptable director Stephen Frears has produced one of his most dull, airless and conventional films in this Christopher Hampton adaptation of two of Colette’s semi-scandalous, Belle-Epoque-set Parisian novels. It’s a shame, given the splendour on offer: Michelle Pfeiffer is magnificently attired in a series of to-die-for Grecian bended, period costumes, playing successful, well-mannered courtesan Lea, who embarks on a six-year, protective relationship with callow Chéri (Rupert Friend), the kohl-eyed son of a colleague she’d nurtured and nicknamed as a boy. At 19, he presents the perfect picture of self-loathing dissolution that we associate with the world of Oscar Wilde.

The film is a sober portrait of unconventional love and restrained suffering – punctured by a moment of explicit, wailing, arch-backed pain – that may be undone by its discretion and quiet irony. If Pfeiffer is occasionally touching – hauling back her emotions when caught off-guard – then Friend, doing a passable impression of Terence Stamp in his beauteous youth, is too passive an object to be truly moving. His crucial marriage of convenience to fellow ‘orphan’ Edmée (Felicity Jones) makes him as much a cipher as an emotional victim of the veiled, hypocritical and corrupt machinery of capitalist business the book and film seek to expose and criticise. Indeed, Frears, who also supplies a knowing narration, is content to leave much of the film’s metaphor to exquisite architecture and design: notably the exotic, perfumed gardens of Chéri’s mother’s grand house in Neuilly where Lea repeatedly recalls her halcyon days with the boy, only compounding an impression of the film as a mere picture-book remembrance.

By: Wally Hammond



Release details

Release date:
Friday May 8 2009
100 mins

Cast and crew

Stephen Frears
Christopher Hampton
Anita Pallenberg
Frances Tomelty
Kathy Bates
Michelle Pfeiffer
Felicity Kendal
Rupert Friend
Harriet Walter
Iben Hjejle
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