French kissing

Audrey Tautou steps into Audrey Hepburn’s Ferragamos.

by Kara Nesvig

.”Priceless” is as weightless as a silk chiffon dress, as fizzy as a flute of pink champagne, as sparkly as a diamond bracelet and as sweet as a box full of macaroons. Therefore, it’s everything a French film starring the irresistibly adorable Audrey Tautou should be, all wrapped up in an adorable little robin’s egg blue box for your viewing pleasure.


STARRING: Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh
DIRECTED BY: Pierre Salvadori
PLAYING AT: Edina Cinema

The film stars the “New Audrey,” Mademoiselle Tautou, as Irène, a gamine of a gold digger looking for somebody with the pocketbook to take care of her and supply her with all the Christian Louboutin stilettos she so desires.

But a drunken encounter with timid bartender Jean (Gad Elmaleh), whom Irene mistakes for a suave young millionaire, sets off a series of screwball romantic hijinks in the language of love.

Eventually Irène discovers that her new lover hasn’t a penny to his name and exacts her revenge, spending Jean’s hard-earned pay on shoes and bags displayed in boutique windows before she drops him for a thrice-divorced billionaire. Now penniless and alone in a gorgeous hotel in the south of France, Jean finds his own source of sugar in the widowed Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam) and proves to Irène that anything she can do, he can do better. Shopping at Hérmes? A 30,000 euro watch? A zippy little motor scooter? They’re his, thanks to the generosity of the wise but wistful Madeleine.

As you can imagine, there’s plenty of romance throughout the film; it was made by the masters of love, the French, after all. So what happens to Jean and Irène? Do they continue as pampered playthings for their respective cash cows, or do they follow their hearts and end up together? Will Irène decide that l’amour is more important than an Azzaro dress? The movie never tries to make any moral statements on the topic of “love vs. money,” but it’s a conundrum easily figured out about halfway through the film.

“Priceless” is, like all darling little trinkets presented to a precious pet, pretty to look at and generally without emotional heft. It’s a film to enjoy, not to scrutinize, just the way you’d admire a chic ensemble in the window at Dior. The scenery in particular is lovely; the film takes place amongst the rich and privileged in their getaway playground of swanky hotels and aquamarine ocean views.

Of course, the loveliest of all is Tautou, who stole hearts worldwide as do-gooder “Amelie” and only amps up that impish charm as money-hungry Irène. She doesn’t play Irène as an Anna Nicole Smith-esque gold digger, but as a simple girl who enjoys the finer things in life and who never wants to worry about money. Plus, when she slides into those teeny little draped dresses and buckles her Chanel heels, she’s a thousand times lovelier than her big-breasted, fake-baked American counterparts.

Her paramour Monsieur Elmaleh, though no cinema idol in the devastatingly gorgeous sense of the word, is delightful as the put-upon Jean, particularly because of his limpid silent-movie-star eyes and his wry comic timing.

“Priceless” would be absolutely horrific if it were to be remade as an American film, because its subtle humor translates so much better into French. Imagining a leading lady as saccharine as, say, Reese Witherspoon in the role of Irène would be sickening; nobody can play it as snappily as Tautou, who runs a current of wickedness underneath her Hermes-loving heroine. In French, you can ignore the fact that there’s little substance running underneath the film and instead delight in its prettiness.

Here, in its intended form, “Priceless” is as enchanting as a glittering diamond ring.