“Some people can’t play sports. I can’t make friends.”
My Best Friend, from director Patrice Leconte, is a comedy about self-focused antique dealer Francois Coste (Daniel Auteuil). Middle-aged Francois is divorced and has a casual, emotionless relationship with a girlfriend, and he’s the business partner with lesbian Catherine (Julie Gayet). The film presents three social situations that collectively sum up Francois’s life–a funeral, an auction, and a dinner with business acquaintances.
When the film begins, Francois attends the funeral of another antique dealer and notes a mere 7 people attend the ceremony (and that includes the man’s widow). Later that day, Francois and Catherine attend an auction together, and here Francois rather impulsively buys a Greek vase for 200,000 Euros from the 5th century B.C. The vase comes with a story–apparently it was made to commemorate the death of a friend.
Catherine is annoyed by the purchase of the vase. The gallery doesn’t have the money to float this sort of purchase the vase, unless Francois turns it over quickly with a profit. To her surprise, Francois admits that he wants to keep the vase himself, and he ignores the fact that he’s not exactly working in unison with his partner on this deal, or that he’s jeopardizing their business in his selfish pursuit. Things come to a head that evening at a restaurant when Catherine challenges Francois to produce a ‘best friend’ within 10 days, and with the vase as the prize to the winner, Francois begins a hunt to find a friend. It isn’t long before he hooks up with gregarious taxi driver, Bruno (Dany Boon). This scenario opens up many episodes of clumsy attempts by Francois to make friends.
While on the surface, Bruno seems to be the sort of person who makes friends easily (hence Francois employs him to give lessons), in reality, he’s not much better off then Francois. The difference between the two men is that Bruno makes an effort, and is genuinely interested in people. Francois, on the other hand has a tendency (like most of us) to confuse acquaintances with true friendship. But both Bruno and Francois are terribly lonely people. The difference is that Francois doesn’t really understand that until he’s confronted with the notion of how many people would show up to his funeral.
My Best Friend is a change of pace for Leconte. With the impressive Widow of St Pierre, The Hairdresser’s Husband, The Girl on the Bridge, Intimate Strangers and Monsieur Hire in his past, My Best Friend–with its warm and fuzzy, clichéd moments, is much lighter fare. I prefer Auteuil in serious roles (Heart in Winter, The Elegant Criminal, Sade), but if you have to stick him in a comedy, at least give him one of those dastardly comedy roles. My Best Friend is a decent film, lighthearted with strains of meaning (what is life all about, etc), but for this Leconte fan, it doesn’t come close to some of previous films.
Cineaste interview with Leconte: