Opening 27 Aug 2009
Writing credits: Christopher Hampton, Colette
Principal actors: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, Rupert Friend, Felicity Jones, Frances Tomelty
Stephen Frears (The Queen) teams up again with screenwriter Christopher Hampton and actress Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liasons) for Chéri, based on the romantic novel by French writer Colette.
“Chéri” is the nickname of Fred Peloux (Rupert Friend), the vain and beautifully groomed son of a former courtesan, the wealthy Madame Peloux (a perfectly cast Kathy Bates). He is nineteen years old, and his casual attitude and hedonism make it difficult to marry him off. The elegant Lea de Lonval (Pfeiffer), a contemporary and retired colleague of his mother, is invited for tea and help in leading him into the right direction. Little does she know that – despite the age difference – the two of them will both experience true love for the first time in their unsteady lives. The six-year affair is forced apart when Madame Preloux arranges a marriage between Chéri and the rich but innocent 20-year old Edmee (Felicity Jones). Both lovers suffer emotionally and struggle in accepting their essential differences. Under great pain and fruitless diversions they finally come to terms with the new situation.
This evocation of belle époque Paris, where a circle of courtesans have come to riches, reflects the atmosphere with elaborate costumes and tasteful sets. A wonderfully witty Kathy Bates and ironic Michelle Pfeiffer entertain us with a brisk and amusing exchange of words (see below) in the tranquil setting of the lush winter garden. Their talk ranges from the elasticity of skin to the value of their shares on the stock market, with Chéri adding his aloof and bitchy comments. Michelle Pfeiffer brings a wide range of emotions to her character; touching vulnerability is masked by outward strength as the relationship between the lovers develops into a strong dependency on each other. This movie is not only an entertaining but satisfying portrait of an era that also suggests reminiscence with a touch of nostalgia for times gone by.
“Art lovers are a more reliable income than art.”
“I can’t criticize his character because I don’t know if he has one.”
“Don’t you find that when the skin is less firm, it holds perfume so much better?”
“Being with someone for six years is like following someone to the colonies. When you get back, you no longer know what to wear.”
“I dare say the divorce will be more fun than the wedding.” (Birgit Schrumpf)