Director: Patrice Leconte
It’s roughly as hard to believe Daniel Auteuil-- one of France’s most famous and gorgeous leading men-- in a role as a successful antique dealer without a friend in the world as it was to witness Hugh Grant inventing an imaginary son in order to “score” with single moms in About a Boy but in the hands of master filmmaker Patrice Leconte, not only is Auteil believable, but his Francois Coste seems to be the epitome of all of the recent news articles which state that nowadays it’s virtually impossible for adults without children to make new friends. Studies have shown that in America, solitary life is quite common with a high number of adults listing that they have virtually nobody to confide in and it’s the “virtual” of the matter that’s most often brought to light as technology is limiting our day-to-day personal interactions. While we never actually see Francois Coste on the computer, he conducts his business life with cold precision, using company money to buy an extremely expensive Greek vase (complete with a friendship motif) on impulse and then during a crowded dinner with his business partner Catherine (Julie Gayet) we realize he’s completely oblivious and self-possessed to the lives of those around him. Spurned by his inattention to the feelings of others, Catherine challenges Francois to produce a best friend within ten days, with the understanding that if he fails to do so, she will obtain the vase. Francois, who barely understands his nearly estranged daughter Louise (Julie Durand) accepts Catherine’s wager quickly and immediately begins visiting his “contacts” only to realize that none of them think of him as anything more than a business acquaintance. Enter Bruno Bouley (Dany Boon) as an equally lost Frenchman—a friendly, easygoing cab driver who entertains (and sometimes annoys) his fares with endless trivia, despite always succumbing to nerves when trying for game show auditions. Once he crosses paths with Francois, we realize we have the makings of an excellent Leconte film. Using his similar themes of outsiders who become unlikely friends, My Best Friend excels once the two men begin their tentative association as (like the characters in Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks who need a crash course in culture again featuring Hugh Grant), Francois hires Bruno to teach him how to make friends, only to realize later that he’s developing quite a valuable friendship of his own. However, sticking to the modern setting and problems of contemporary life, the conclusion of the piece set during an episode of France’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire is effective and surprisingly emotionally gripping instead of tacky as we come to understand the precious nature of friendship and are refreshed to see it expressed so expertly between two men (as Leconte did with another recent quiet masterwork Man on the Train).