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