Director: Pierre Salvadori
A habitual check-splitter, I get embarrassed if an insistent but well-meaning man spends too much on me on dinner let alone trying to procure gifts of diamonds, hotel suites and Chanel from my date. Then again, I’m a regular woman living in the real world and not the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn like Audrey Tatou whose gold digging beauty Irene lives in the world of frothy, sundrenched France in director Pierre Salvadori’s latest infectious hit Priceless.
With his adorable romantic comedy Apres Vous (After You), Salvadori and his co-writer Benoit Graffin gave legendary comedic director Francis Veber (The Closet, The Dinner Game) a run for his money. For Priceless, they even recruited the charming star Gad Elmaleh of Veber’s most recent film The Valet. As Jean, Elmaleh plays a role similar to the one in The Valet, as the kind, diligent but largely unappreciated employee at a high class hotel with an inability to say “no,” who routinely fills in for others as the seaside resort’s jack of all trades, walking dogs for the ridiculous, wealthy and ridiculously wealthy and serving as the bartender.
While Jean’s life is all about hard work, Irene (Tatou) covets all things luxurious and expensive as the sexy siren hoping to marry her latest sugar daddy but in a predictable and Veber like twist of fate, ends up mistaking Jean for a high roller, tumbling into bed with him until her meal ticket finds out and kicks her to the curb. One year later and still smitten with Irene, Jean tries to fill the gentleman’s Prada shoes by digging deep into his savings account, pension and then some to keep her in the lifestyle to which she’s accustomed. Unwilling to change her ways, Irene cleans the man out in one painfully memorable scene that finds Jean awakening to the sound of Irene ripping tags off couture each with a price that makes our economic stimulus package seem like earnings from a child’s lemonade stand. Soon, Jean himself finds he’s the target of a wealthy, older female “cougar” and becomes both Irene’s friend and rival as they try to extract as many gifts as possible from their… ahem, benefactors.
Although we all know just who will end up with whom before the final credits roll, watching the two charismatic leads and their millionaire lovers volley back and forth like pairs in doubles tennis is pure bliss. More importantly, Priceless serves as further proof of not only Salvadori’s directorial skill in the genre but more so in the wake of too many by-the-numbers American rom-coms, that much like Chanel perfume, nobody does sophisticated, irresistible romance like the French.