Priceless (2006)

 “It seems a man like you can’t be bought, even by me.”

pricelessIn Priceless (Hors de Prix) Irene (Audrey Tatou) is a svelte gold digger who haunts the playgrounds of the stinking rich looking for her next victim. Irene gets herself picked up by solitary, wealthy men, and then she milks the new relationship for all it’s worth before she moves on and latches onto the next sucker. One night she spies Jean (Gad Elmaleh) a waiter in the swanky hotel bar. She mistakes Jean for a wealthy millionaire, and he doesn’t bother to correct her mistake.

Fast forward to another encounter, and Irene and Jean find themselves in hot water. Irene reverts to her profession of choice, and Jean, well Jean picks up some lessons along the way.

Priceless, with its 30s madcap comedy feel, is from director Pierre Salvadori, and it’s a much more polished film than his earlier comedy, Apres Vous, a film that never quite managed to maintain the laughs–in spite of the talents of seasoned actor Daniel Auteuil. Priceless is…well, priceless, slick while seemingly almost guileless, this highly polished film manages to pass off some very awkward moments delightfully.

Irene is essentially a hooker, picking up customers and bleeding them for hotel stays, clothes and expensive jewelry. The film doesn’t tackle the idea of sexual favours traded for stuff  head-on, but neither is the story a preposterous Cinderella tale (the very silly Pretty Woman springs to mind). While Priceless glosses over the seedier aspects of Irene’s manipulative ways, nonetheless the plot does address the sex-for-hire aspect–lightly and with humor. Plus a few plot surprises keep us guessing, and ultimately the plot works. Jean finds himself broke and homeless, and once he’s in this vulnerable position, he finds out first hand how it feels to be Irene. It would have been a horrible mistake for the film to emphasize this point and create a heavy moral point in the middle of the laughs, but instead the plot makes its point and then continues on. The next point the film makes is that the lifestyles of the rich and famous can be addictive….

Wealthy socialite Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam) is a marvelous addition to the film, and when she enters the picture, the comedy ramps up a notch. Jean and Irene are ultimately people who do some sleazy things to maintain their lifestyles, but the film never once dips into that sleaze. Yet at the same time it’s not too sticky sweet, and this is achieved partly through meeting the ‘victims’ who are played here as not very nice people who know what they want and are perfectly willing to pay for it.

Tatou is an actress who has been criminally underutilized and it’s great to see her here, showing her claws and playing a whole range of emotions as she steps away from the ingénue role. If you like frothy French romantic comedy, well it doesn’t get much better than this. Highly recommended

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7 Comments

Filed under Comedy, France

7 responses to “Priceless (2006)

  1. I liked this one. It avoids the flaws of American romantic comedies.

    You don’t see it in this movie but Gad Elmaleh is a very famous humorist, he is VERY funny.

  2. I’m not much for rom-coms generally, but I did recently watch the British film, French Film which I thought was rather good.

  3. sorry, I didn’t understand the second part of your sentence

  4. “French Film” is the name of a British film which features Hugh Bonneville. Is that the bit you meant?

  5. Yes. I don’t know this movie.
    L’arnacoeur with Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris is a good one.

  6. That one is due on on DVD in a few months.

  7. Hi, I’ve watched French Film.
    Funny clichés about French film directors and how Frenchmen are supposed to be smug and know everything about love. The soundrack dates back to WWII and we haven’t had 2CV for decades, but that’s part of the cliché, isn’t it ?

    Well, Englishmen have their clichés too: always smug about how fast they can swallow a glass of beer.
    And that scene where Jed goes to the loo in his girl-friend’s presence is so incredible. That behaviour is a real romance killer.

    I was mostly standing with Jed (Hugh Bonneville) since I’m not fond of those French movies. Does that mean I was born on the wrong side of the Channel ? (kidding)

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