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Might Be a Scandal Stateside, but a Real Charmer on the French Riviera.
on November 26, 2008
"Priceless" (Hors de prix) is a romantic comedy of a sort only the French would make. Jean Simon (Gad Elmaleh) is a bartender at a posh hotel on the French Riviera so conditioned to fulfill the guests' every wish that he can't say "no". Irene Mercier (Audrey Tautou) is an attractive young woman kept by a wealthy older man whom she hopes to marry to secure a life of luxury. When Irene's companion Jacques (Vernon Dobtcheff) falls asleep and spoils her plans for the evening, Irene dejectedly saunters to the hotel bar, where she mistakes Jean for a rich guest. Jean sheepishly accommodates her mistake, and they have a drunken fling. When she returns to the hotel a year later, engaged to Jacques, their mutual attraction threatens her marriage plans, Jean's job, and everyone's equilibrium.
This is a genuinely charming and funny film, but I had to laugh at its effrontery as well as it script. "Priceless" adopts a jaunty, optimistic tone at the point when Jean and Irene begin prostituting themselves to rich patrons. This film would not be made in the Untied States. It accepts the casual exchange of sex for money as an amusing and self-evident aspect of life, and sexual jealousy simply does not exist. Irene couldn't be more charming than when she attempts to educate a smitten Jean on the arts of gold-digging and seduction. Irene and Jean's meal tickets, the wealthy bon vivants that keep them in designer fashions, are interesting and smart people themselves, which helps elevate the film.
And there is always something interesting going on the background. I enjoyed director Pierre Salvadori's peeks behind the scenes at how luxury hotels function. I was impressed by his respect for the support staffs that keep the hotels running, and it enhanced the feeling of grandeur that Irene single-mindedly seeks. "Priceless" was obviously inspired by "Breakfast at Tiffany's", a film that I don't care for. It is not as coy about the lady's profession, however. And Jean and Irene are much more appealing and good-humored leads. "Priceless" is a very good-looking film, a scandalous tale that wisely gives no hint of scandal, with a smart, funny script. There are no bonus features on the First Look 2008 DVD. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.