Latest French Farce from Legendary Patrice Leconte
Over the years, Patrice Leconte has proven himself quite adept at plumbing the depths of the human psyche by placing a couple of people with nothing in common in an emotionally-explosive predicament. In Intmate Strangers (2004), it was an unhappily-married woman who started sharing confidences with a tax attorney she mistook for her new psychotherapist.
The Man on the Train (2002) paired a straitlaced professor with a bank robber he befriended at a pharmacy. Girl on the Bridge (1999) revolved around the relationship of a 21 year-old nymphomaniac and the middle-aged circus performer who talked her out of committing suicide. You get the idea.
With My Best Friend, the Oscar-nominated director (for Ridicule) has served up another fascinating double character study, this starring Daniel Auteuil as Francois, an arrogant, antique dealer who’s phenomenally successful, except for the fact that he doesn’t have anyone in his life who likes him. When Catherine (Julie Gayet), his business partner, points out this failing, he claims to have plenty of friends.
Skeptical, she challenges him to produce his best friend by the end of the month or else surrender possession of his prized Greek vase. Francois immediately accepts the dare, but soon finds that ten days might not be enough time, since none of his acquaintances considers him a friend.
After being rejected by everyone, including a longtime client, a grade school classmate, and the similarly-situated losers he encounters at a friendship seminar, he belatedly sets his sights on manipulating Bruno (Dany Boon), his regular cab driver, into helping him win the bet. So, unfolds My Best Friend, a sinuously intriguing French farce set in and around a Paris often presented from the perspective of a perambulating taxi.
Down on his luck Bruno, who dreams of changing his fortune by winning a million francs on a TV game show, maintains an upbeat demeanor despite the fact that his wife recently left him for another man. And he freely shares with Francois his secret of why he’s so beloved by all his customers and by everyone else who crosses his path, namely, the three S’s, being sociable, smiling and sincere.
Sadly, Francois can’t take this advice to heart, but only sees his cheery chauffeur as a naive, lower-class loser to be exploited, which doesn’t bode well for his hopes of holding on to his cherished vase when he tries to pass off Bruno as his best friend during the denouement. A satisfying cinematic masterpiece with an invaluable message about the meaning of real relating.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for strong profanity.
In French with subtitles.
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: IFC Films