Saturday, January 23, 2010


It's France right before WWI: beautiful cars, mansions and servants are in the lives of the courtesans of kings and millionaires. This story is about the later life of one of them, Lea de Lonval (Michelle Pfeiffer), a very successful courtesan who is past that age when she can demand favors from royalty. She takes on as a lover the 19-year-old son, Cheri (Rupert Friend), of a friend of hers, Madame Charlotte Peloux (Kathy Bates), and, to their surprise and against her better judgment, they stay lovers for six years. However, Madame Peloux has arranged a marriage for her son, and matters change for all.

Cheri is a May-December story that has disaster written all over it, something we sense from the beginning. This is a little more than a fluff piece only because it's Michelle Pfeiffer's latest film. Although there are no nude scenes of Pfeiffer, the viewer has the feeling that she's still "got it," because the camera seems to still caress her face and body even though both are showing signs of the years. The difference, however, between the older Pfeiffer and the younger is that her acting has benefitted from all those years, and we feel her pain.

Michelle Pfeiffer flirted with the theme of aging once before, in the delightful Stardust, but that was a comedy, and much to our surprise, she was quite adept at it. Cheri is quite a different manner, and even her presence can't save us from the stagnation of this dated Collette story.

One of the narrative problems of the movie lies in the fact that the most powerful messages are told to us, not shown. The fact that courtesans can't have any friends because no self-respecting woman or man would be seen with them. The denouement of the young Cheri. All in all, though, it all comes down to whether you're pulling for the lovers. Since Lea doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities except for the fact that we all like the actress portraying her, and since Cheri is obviously a good-for-nothing loafer who is perfectly content to lounge on his mother's money without ever putting her in her place, there's no reason to hope for the best. Frankly, they deserve each other.

I would urge die-hard Michelle Pfeiffer fans to see Cheri, as she's still a wonder to watch. However, for the rest of us, thumbs down.


At 9:53 AM, Blogger Dawn Kepler said...

I haven't seen the film and would have had I not read your review. The fact that we are not moved to care about the characters means that they didn't get the heart of the book. I read the story when I was young and it put the fear of age in me! It was beautiful and mournful. Then you have to read "The Last of Cheri" to stun you. That part I don't think I understood until I was decades older.


Post a Comment

<< Home