Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend and Kathy Bates.
Michelle Pfeiffer is like a fine wine, a fine actress that matures with age. And like all wines, once they are poured they taste great and boy does she taste great on screen. Perfectly cast as courtesan Lea de Lonal, Pfeiffer oozes sultry sex appeal albeit restrained in the period setting of 1906. Elegant and graceful, she has experienced and “entertained” a multitude of men during her acclaimed life in Paris’s La Belle Epoque. In Lea’s gracefully aging years she meets once again with 19 year old Cheri (Rupert Friend) with whom she has had a casual acquaintance, due to Lea’s friendship with Cheri’s mother and former courtesan Mme Peloux (played by a politely eccentric Kathy Bates). When Cheri steals a lingering and flirtatious kiss from Lea one afternoon during tea, they begin a sensual love affair. Cheri has had an infamous past with other courtesans so is this now the real thing and how long will his relationship with Lea last?
At the heart of the films core is a story about love but this is also a story about age. As their relationship progresses over the years how will they cope with growing old and will their relationship become stronger or falter over a period of time? Orlando Bloom-esq Rupert Friend plays the young and selfish Cheri with zest and confidence, a man who knows what he wants and how to get it even though he comes across as a spoilt foppish brat. The film looks as if it should have been a good old fashioned bedroom romp with lots of comedy and wit and although there is, it lacks any of it in abundance. This gives the piece and very unusual tone throughout. It is neither a comedy or drama. The tone is not even somewhere in between and director Stephen Frears who also provides an almost bookended narration seems to be lost in the complexities of love and lust to progress with what should be a truly engaging story.
As with most period films the costumes are delightful and the locations adequate although it does have the feel that it was shot in only a few locations to save money on the budget. This is not necessary though as much of the action takes place in the bedroom and it is in this domain that the characters express their true emotions post coitus. Attention to detail is impressive. However watch out for the unintentionally amusing scene on the train where the background effect makes the carriage feel as if the characters are on an escalator therefore defying the laws of physics! This is not a bad film, far from it but I wished that it delved more in to the relationships and motive of its leads and had just a wee bit more humour to boot. But ultimatly, like Lea, I really wanted more from Cheri.
You will love this if: you admire opulent period dramas.
You will hate this if: you can’t stand decadence, opulence and high tea, lots of high tea.
Cheri is in cinemas now.