May 9, 2008

300 Words About: Hors de prix (Priceless)

Audrey Tautou is all grown up. Gone is the flighty, naive, occasionally desperate young girl from Amélie, Dirty Pretty Things, and A Very Long Engagement. Now, seven years after she charmed American audiences as Ms. Poulain, we see a woman very much acting her age (31) in Hors de Prix (Priceless), a wickedly funny French send-up of Breakfast at Tiffany's. From its terrific opening title sequence to its fun-loving final scene, Priceless is an entertaining, if not totally fulfilling, story of two people scandalizing with the wrong people for all the wrong reasons (well, maybe that last bit is a matter of preference - I don't consider money a "right" reason). Written and directed by Pierre Salvadori (Après vous), Priceless also stars Moroccan Gad Elmaleh (The Valet), an accidental charmer who at different times reminded me of both Peter Sellers and Rowan Atkinson. As Jean, an overworked hotel employee on the French riviera, Elmaleh is pitch-perfect (should I regret skipping The Valet?). When Jean sees an opening to romance the manipulative gold-digger Irène (Tautou), he takes full advantage of his position - mixing drinks at the bar and bringing Irène up to the hotel's presidential suite. When she embarrassingly discovers that he's in fact the one who makes the beds and not the one who sleeps in them, she's off to the next potential sugar daddy. But Jean is already in too deep - he'll do whatever it takes to win her back, even tracking her down in Monte Carlo and, in a matter of hours, tragically spend his life savings, investments, and pension plan in order to show Irène that he can support her sickening habits. Alas, he can't, and she ditches him after he's spent his last Euro. What follows is the real meat of the film - Jean trying to beat Irène at her own game. There are some hilarious comedic moments (my favorite was Jean at breakfast for the first time with his new "friend"), but not enough to make Priceless as good as it could have been. Without knowing anything about these characters, it was difficult to buy into the film's second half, notably the deep lessons Irène is supposed to learn about life and love. Nonetheless, Priceless doesn't take itself too seriously, and actually maintains a decent sense of unpredictability throughout. If any part of what I've said appeals to you, it might be worth your while. Don't expect to feel good about humanity, but do expect to have a few laughs.


  1. Sucks I have not seen this, or rather that I have not been given the chance, because I really am a fan of Audrey Tautou. Amelie is one of my all time faves.

    It does sound like a ton of fun, and that is all I want nowadays.

    Nicely said indeed.

  2. Thanks, Nick. I'm sure Audrey Tautou fans will love to see her mix it up a bit. As long as you don't expect sweet little Amelie to bat her eyelashes while talking about kittens, you should be in for a treat.

  3. First of all, I counted (and when I say "I," I mean MS Word) 418 words, but that's neither here nor there, MS Word supposes.

    I enjoyed this for many of the same reasons as you. It won't teach anyone anything (nor does it aspire to), but it's a fun ride for a couple hours, and it doesn't insult your intelligence.

    I feel the same way in regards to The Valet; Elmaleh was impressive, and I got the same vibes as you did, perhaps with a bit of a generic James Bond quality to him as well (though I guess the original Casino Royale would take care of two of those references).

    I gotta disagree with this though ("maintains a decent sense of unpredictability throughout"). I didn't think it could have been more predictable, not that it bothered me.

    Oh, and my favorite scenes were with Elmaleh acting as the prince. His "improv" lines were hilarious.

  4. Curses, Fletch! I figured somebody was paying attention. I got a little out of hand with the synopsis here and thought I could sneak some extra space in. Forgive me this time (and actually every other time - I think I've been under or over each time so far). I should have seen The Valet after all? Dang. Sounds like he's on a streak here, and I think he might have potential for a more serious character, too. Just has that look to him.

    I thought mentioning the predictability might come back to bite me. It wasn't that I didn't expect it to end as it did, but I don't think it got there in the way that I thought it would, if that makes sense. It was just a bit trickier than the average romantic comedy, especially when the laughs weren't rapidly rolling (cougar lady calling him out at dinner, the drawn out night at the party, the beach scene).

    Also, I'm sure it helps that I hadn't seen the trailer so I didn't know how cold and calculating she actually was.

  5. Oh, I haven't seen The Valet; I was just echoing your thoughts about missing it.

    I hadn't seen the trailer for this or The Visitor. As much as I like trailers (and generally being a know-it-all in terms of new releases), I enjoy going in cold to movies sometimes, maybe just getting a general feel from a review or story beforehand. It's another reason festivals appeal to me - typically, you know nothing about the movies shown.

    I'll let the word count slide. ;) I just glimpsed at it and thought "hey, that looks like a lot more than 300 words!"

  6. Ah. Has anyone seen The Valet? I heard good buzz but skipped it in the theater and totally forgot about it.

    Yes, festival viewings are pretty much as pure as you can get without actually seeing the dailies. However, then you're kind of left hanging out there with your opinion until everyone else sees it. Still, festivals are fantastic, assuming you have a decent lineup of course and not just a bunch of floating reject movies.

  7. Audrey Tautou gave an interview with CNN about this film and she talked about how much fun it was to get to play a character like Irène.

    I'm excited to see this one, and I'm looking forward to Coco avant Chanel as well.

  8. She could bat her eyelids while cut her toenails and cursing like a sailor - I would love her. She can do whatever she likes, I will always love her. In an admiration kind of way.

  9. The Valet was one of those many movies that was on my radar but passed through theaters before I could get around to catching it. After Priceless, I'm more tempted to track it down on DVD.

    I'm not sure what my expectations of this one were, but it was a nice little surprise. Funny, bubbly, charming and lovely to look at. Such a movie doesn't have to change the world to be good.

    Just curious Daniel, how do you choose between review formats?

  10. Interesting, k - maybe we'll see this side of her more often. Thanks for the tip - early details on Chanel now intrigue me as well.

    Well you might be tempted beyond just admiration in this one, Nick...

    Seriously though, I hope she doesn't ever do what you describe, but it sounds like it would be a pretty interesting character. ;-P

    Bubbly and charming are too great adjectives for both the characters and the film in general, Craig.

    Re: the reviews? No idea, haha. At some point I decided that some films don't fit the full dissection that I normally attempt. For example, there isn't much new I can say about classics (i.e., Good,Bad,Ugly), while some other films (i.e., Iron Man) don't really provide enough meat for me (and it may just be me) to analyze. For some others (i.e., Mutum, Kicks, Priceless), I feel like I can sum up my thoughts well enough in 300 words (grr...Fletch, hehe), especially if the film is lacking major stars, interesting production information ("Background"), or a really rich story. For the most part, I try to give the full treatment to new releases, especially if they're fresh in my mind.

    The short answer? I dunno. It can sometimes be easier to write fewer words when I've got a backlog of reviews I want to write? It's nice to mix it up a little bit? I'm lazy? Haha, I really should stick to my usual format for the reasons I initially laid out when I started this, but, well, I learn as I go along, and with nobody holding me accountable I'm likely to continue breaking my own rules.

  11. Well, for the record I like both styles.

    Sometimes a movie dictates how much should be written about it. Forcing it is probably a mistake.

    I used to have a mental goal of a certain number of words for each review, but sometimes I just don't have that much to say. In those cases I try and keep it short.

  12. I also like both formats.

    Generally, I go overboard in my reviews, and it is so exhausting, so I usually don't write them often. Or maybe I am just saying that because I have not seen anything recently worth reviewing. I don't know.

    I know I used to try to keep my reviews at about 500 words, to meet the online film critics society standard - but then I got over it. Rules are made to be broken, and I intend to break 'em every so often.

    Nonetheless, keep up the great reviews, because at the end of the day; when there is a film I want to see but cannot, I pretty much live your yours and Craig’s reviews.

  13. *I pretty much live through your and Craig’s reviews.

  14. Thanks, guys. It sure is nice to be able to write according to our own rules, isn't it? I didn't know about that word count standard, Nick, but I clearly go way over that with my regular reviews anyway!

    I imagine you're going to be able to keep up a steady habit longer than I am, and I'll be happy to switch places then. In the meantime, glad to have you checking in even if you haven't seen all of these yet.


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