There’s something utterly charming about Pierre Salvadori’s Priceless, and it’s not even the movie’s beguiling leads, Gad Elmaleh and Audrey Tautou. Rather, it’s the anachronistic pace the director sets: Diverging from the vast majority of modern comedies, Priceless doesn’t hurtle along at a hectic gallop but sustains an elegant canter. Like the Chanel gowns favored by Tautou’s Irène, a deluxe hooker prowling French palace hotels, the film is effortlessly sexy and chic, while acknowledging the baser instincts that sustain its milieu with a sly wink.
Mistaking him for a rich mark, Irène has a fling with Jean (Elmaleh), a lowly hotel employee; alas, her current wealthy lover catches her and promptly dumps her. Meanwhile, Jean loses his job and quickly discovers that the company of affluent, older ladies can be rather…rewarding. Throughout, Salvadori unfolds his precisely plotted story with screwball fluidity. Here is a director who not only names Ernst Lubitsch and Gregory La Cava as influences, but actually delivers a movie that doesn’t besmirch the legacy of those titans.
He is greatly helped by his stars, who rise to the challenge with previously unsuspected skill: Tautou can turn on the Audrey Hepburn charm at will, yet suggests the lowly origins lurking underneath Irène’s couture, while Elmaleh’s Buster Keaton–esque startled expressions provide some of the film’s best laughs. Priceless may not actually be much, but it says something about our current comedy climate that this very grown-up romp feels like a lot.
Cast and crew