Best Friends

My Best Friend. Daniel Auteuil, Julie Gayet, and Dany Boon star in a film written and directed by Patrice Leconte.

Ten years ago, director Patrice Leconte was a name that conjured hope for a renewed French cinema. After the double whammy of the tense, satisfying Monsieur Hire and the almost random joys of The Hairdresser’s Husband, he seemed headed out past modernism’s shores to more haunted and visionary neighborhoods. This film seems to prove that old hope is gone. Can you say sold out?

Essentially the stuff of American sitcom filtered through a Gallic landscape, My Best Friend is little better than a vaguely nutritious confection poised for a big remake in Hollywood. Here are some notes for the adapting team:

It begins with Fran§ois, the fine comic actor Daniel Auteuil-who looks like an exact cross between Robert De Niro and Fran§ois Truffaut-attending a sparsely peopled funeral. As he whispers condolences to the widow, he mentions a piece of furniture the dead man owned that Fran§ois would like to buy. She smiles politely but glares at his back as he retreats. In the American version, she will flip him off.

The rest of the comedy revolves around a pricy Greek vase and a bet between Fran§ois and his business partner, Catherine (Julie Gayet), who alleges that all his relationships are fiduciary. But a chance encounter with a trivia-obsessed cabbie (Dany Boon) teaches him that friendship means pulling your head out of your own butt. In the Hollywood film, the cabbie will be African American. Maybe Danny Glover?

This film does evade some cliches, and, to be fair, it also raises questions about narcissism and selflessness. What the film lacks, though, is the stunning visual ideas Leconte mustered not so very long ago. It’s no crime to direct piffles, but it’s a shame to see such an obvious money-making ploy. Leconte even hinges his climax on a French version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It fairly cries out for Robin Williams, but it could also mean a big role for Regis Philbin, and that’s like money in le bank.


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