“Priceless” is exactly the kind of French comedy an American studio will adapt for an American audience, and if “Three Men and a Baby” or “Birdcage” are indications of how Americans can tame or water down an original, it’s best you see this comedy in its pure form.
I guess what I am saying is that if you want to see a pretty darn good comedy right now (It’s the best one out there), don’t wait three years to see Catherine Zeta-Jones in the remake. See it now — this weekend.
Pierre Salvadori’s French farce is at once funny and frivolous. It also serves up some perky insights about sex and the call of Euros in the everlasting hunt for jewels, high heels and other stunning creations only Euros can buy.
“Priceless” is also a kind of cockeyed love story as only the French can present love and sexual escapades among the upper class.
Gad Elmaleh, a Moroccan actor with a sad-sack Buster Keaton visage, plays Jean, a young bartender at a posh hotel on the Riviera. After midnight, he is accosted in the lobby by a young woman, the paramour of a sugar daddy who has fallen asleep way too early. Mon Dieu, it’s her birthday. Unfortunately for Irene, played by Audrey Tautou (“Amelie” and “The Da Vinci Code”), she mistakes Gad for a well-heeled guest. Indulging the welcome error with an air of earnest innocence, Jean takes Irene to a suite for a one-night stand. And it appears that he falls in love.
A year later, Jean still cannot get her out of his head; nor, as we hear a jazz-inflected rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” can he avert his rcb q and a Doug Peek wdl buell gaze when Irene shows up with the same gentleman who takes another snooze at an inopportune time. But after some repeat action, there’s a discovery in the boudoir followed by a summary dismissal by Monsieur Sugar Daddy, who is not so stupid after all. When Irene discovers poor Jean’s identity, she decides to take him for everything he’s worth, which isn’t much. It’s the ultimate act of revenge and also the springboard for the aforementioned love story.
Just when it appears Jean has earned a trip into a lover’s hall of shame and straight into debtor’s prison, he is picked up by a wealthy widow (Marie-Christine Adam) who mistakes him for a gigolo, rewarding him with goods of plenty for his services. Meanwhile, up pops Irene with another well-heeled older gentleman. Now, here comes more fun.
As I mentioned, if “Priceless” is frivolous, it is also a lot of fun; that is, you can enjoy its little intricacies without feeling that you’ve been had or attacked by juvenile jokes infesting a loser like this week’s “Made of Honor.”
DIRECTED BY Pierre Salvadori
SCREENPLAY BY Pierre Salvadori and Benoît Graffin
STARRING Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh and Marie-Christine Adam
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes