Hors de Prix / Priceless

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Yesterday afternoon I ventured out into the torrential London rain in order to watch Hors de Prix (also known as Priceless) in one of the few cinemas that are still showing it this week. I’d never been to the Cineworld in the Trocadero before, and I loved the comfy seats. It felt quite decadent to be watching a rom-com about gold-diggers in the French Riviera while the rain beat down on the streets outside.

Priceless introduces us to Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a hotel bartender and dog-walker. I loved the beginning scenes when we saw him being dragged along by a massive group of pooches, then returning the dogs to their pampered and eccentric owners. His expressive blue eyes told a story of polite servitude and latent bewilderment.

One night he falls asleep whilst on duty in the barroom and is mistaken for a rich playboy by Irène (Audrey Tatou). Utterly impressed with this gorgeous creature he plays along and several drinks later they enjoy a passionate romp in a vacant hotel room. A year later she returns to the hotel with her benefactor, and after another illicit rendez-vous with Jean she receives the double blow of getting dumped by her benefactor after he saw her with Jean, but also finding out that Jean was only a hotel employee.

Jean pursues her and supports her for a short time, but she cruelly spends his savings like water and leaves him with nothing but the memories of their brief time together. Luckily for him, a rich widow decides to make him her boy toy. Irène also finds a new mark, and as both couples are staying at the same hotel, Irène and Jean steal moments away from their benefactors while their friendship flourishes. Irène gives Jean tips on how to get the most of his arrangement with Madeleine, and he proves a quick learner when he manages to score a watch worth 30,000 euros.

The ending isn’t a surprise, but the journey there is hilarious and heart-felt. Throughout the movie it’s clear that Jean would do anything for Irène, but it took some time for the ice around Irène’s heart to melt for him. No judgement was made about the morality of sleeping with people for money and gifts, but it was clear that both Madeleine and Jacques had their eyes open and knew that they weren’t buying love, they were buying companionship.

Gad Elmaleh and Audrey Tatou were the perfect double act. Though Tatou was excellent as the cruel gold-digger, it was a real treat for me to watch Elmaleh. His rendition of the hapless, love-sick Jean was pitch-perfect. His charm was infectious and those big blue eyes certainly melted my heart a little.

I’ve only seen Tatou playing very different characters to Irène in Amelie and Dirty Pretty Things , but she nailed the part. She looked so tiny in her gorgeous dresses. The only outfit I didn’t like was the black dress she wore during the climatic scenes at the end, which was slashed in the front down to her stomach and was very revealing but not at all flattering.

I’ve heard rumours of a possible American remake, which I think would be a terrible idea. A lot of the film’s charm comes from its innate Frenchness, and I don’t think it would translate well.

Urban Recluse Rating: ★★★★½

4 Responses to “Hors de Prix / Priceless”

  1. 1
    Westcoast Walker:

    There is a sordid and decadent feeling one gets when skipping off to a matinee during the work week. Even though it is legit, I always get the feeling like I am back in school and skipping class, prepared to be busted any minute.

    Thanks for the review, this one is now definitely on my ever growing “to be watched” list, and I do agree that an Americanized remake would be a tragic mistake, it would probably be less subtle and nuanced and would have a really bad soundtrack.

  2. 2
    Dr. Monkey:

    Mmmmmmmm Audrey Tatou.

  3. 3

    WW: It feels like the whole world is working whilst you’re at play, which is a marvellous feeling.

  4. 4

    Dr M: :mrgreen: