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  Priceless Love For SaleBuy this film here.
Year: 2006
Director: Pierre Salvadori
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff, Jacques Spiesser, Annelise Hesme, Jean de Coninck, Frédéric Boquet, Jean-Michel Lahmi
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Jean (Gad Elmaleh) is a general dogsbody at a highly expensive Biarritz hotel, literally as it is up to him to take the guests' dogs for a walk, and that's not all as the jobs pile up and he's too humble to say no to his boss once in a while. One night he is attending to the bar when a wealthy businessman invites him over to share a cigar and a glass of brandy; at first Jean is reluctant, but as there is nobody else about at this time, he caves in. Later, in the wee small hours of the morning, a young woman enters the lounge: she is Irene (Audrey Tautou) and is looking for a drink. However, she does not realise Jean is part of the staff...

And let the sophisticated romantic comedy commence! For about half of Priceless, or Hors de prix if you were French, it looks utterly heartless as the gold digging ways of Irene dominate. She is at the hotel to be wined and dined and have gifts showered upon her by her ageing fiancé, who happens to be very rich, but she sees nothing wrong in enjoying a fling with Jean. That is down to the fact that he doesn't let on that he isn't a guest there, and is far from being the moneybags she assumes he is, so when the next year Irene and her fiancé arrive for another birthday trip for her benefit, she allows the same thing to happen again.

Second time is not so lucky, as while lonely Jean is delighted and smitten with this woman he accidentally lets the cat out of the bag when circumstances conspire against him, and not only is he found in a top suite with Irene, thereby losing his job, but her partner finds out about it and breaks off the nuptials. Fuming, she decides to have her revenge when Jean follows her like a lost puppy to Nice where he messes up her chances with a well-off heir, and drains the poor chap's bank account by exploiting his love for her. By this point you're thinking either she is a truly nasty and self-centred piece of work, or he is a complete dope.

Or even both, but just as Jean is about to be arrested for not paying his hotel bill (she insisted on staying there, it assuredly wasn't his choice), he is saved by a rich widow, Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam) for whom he becomes a toy boy. He begins to exploit his good fortune in the same way as Irene does, not surprising when the gradually coming around to him schemer starts giving him advice on how to get the most out of Madeleine. Up until this point, you at least have been finding Jean sympathetic, yet here there's a twist that makes him seem as bad as Irene, and the whole production threatens to grow horribly cynical.

Stick with it, though, as it does wrap everything up surprisingly sweetly, a bit like having a spoonful of salt to make the medicine go down rather than sugar. You do get your sugar eventually. Elmaleh's character is often complimented on his charm, although it could be his slightly downbeat naivety, but it's really the actor who sustains the likeability by not doing too much, only just enough in every scene. It's a pleasingly subdued performance that could have easily lapsed into frantic farce, but you could say that of the rest of the film as well, it's a genuinely classy affair that enjoys comparisons to the better, more refined comedies of a bygone age. This goes some way to masking what is a pretty corny love conquers all message, yet it's Tautou who makes you believe the turnaround in tone, leaving you feeling better about things by the engaging, movie-movie finale. Music by Camille Bazbaz.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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