MY BEST FRIEND (MON MEILLEUR AMI) (2007)
Starring Daniel Auteuil, Dany Boon, Julie Gayet, Julie Durand, Jacques Mathou, Henri Garcin, Pierre Aussedat, Audrey Marnay, Cyril Couton, Elisabeth Bourgine, Jacques Spiesser and Marie Pillet.
Screenplay by Jerome Tonnerre and Patrice Leconte.
Directed by Patrice Leconte.
Distributed by IFC Pictures. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Though he doesn’t usually get mentioned in the same breath as Scorsese, Spielberg, Polanski, Tarantino or Coppola, Patrice Leconte is one of the most consistently brilliant directors currently working in film. This French auteur has a sure hand with drama, comedy, period pieces, love stories and tragedies.
My Best Friend is the 36th film in Leconte’s career – a career which spans almost 40 years. Several of those are true classics, Monsieur Hire (1988) and The Man on the Train (2003)come immediately to mind. Others are more earthbound. However, almost all are worth seeing.
My Best Friend is kind of a whimsical trifle for Leconte, but he has as sure a hand with a soufflé as he does with a full meal.
Daniel Auteuil – who isn’t in every French film made, though it sometimes feels that way – plays Francois, a Paris antiquities dealer who is so driven and hard-edged in his work that he is willing to negotiate a purchase with a widow during her husband’s funeral. One day, when out for dinner with a bunch of his best friends, he is told that none of them actually consider him to be a friend. A business partner, a lover, an acquaintance, perhaps – but not a friend.
Francois bristles at the suggestion that he has no friends and ends up making a wager with his business partner Catherine (Julie Gayet) – either he introduces them all to a legitimate best friend within ten days or he will forfeit an ancient Greek vase which he had just bought at auction for an astounding amount – an amount which has literally put their business in jeopardy.
Therefore, Francois goes out clumsily looking to find friends: visiting childhood acquaintances, hanging out in cafés and approaching strangers, even taking an adult education seminar on making connections with people.
Honestly, it is a little hard to believe that he has so much trouble making friends. Yes, he is self-absorbed and all about business, but he is charming, sophisticated, an excellent talker and a good listener. He should be able to find someone in his past or present who does not despise him.
Eventually Francois meets an excessively chatty and outgoing cab driver named Bruno (Dany Boon). Francois offers to hire Bruno to teach him how to be more open to friendship. While the cabbie is a little standoffish to the idea at first – he feels it is a natural state, not something that can be learned – eventually he takes on the challenge.
The two drive around Paris and the cabbie critiques the businessman’s technique. Eventually they begin to bond more and more to the point that Francois realizes that the answer may be right in front of him. Then, when getting proof that Bruno is a true friend who would do anything for him, Francois inadvertently-but-thoughtlessly tramples over the feelings of his new ami.
My Best Friend is essentially a comedy (with some rather dramatic parts), so you are relatively sure that the hardened businessman will learn from his mistakes and try to make everything right. This leads to a rather convoluted scheme which includes insurance companies, family and friends and the French version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?
Like I said before, a little lightweight for this talented filmmaker. Still, second-tier Patrice Leconte is better than most directors’ A games, so it is still a very worthy addition to an impressive body of work.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 3, 2007.