Friday, July 17, 2009

Chéri (Rhoades)

“Chéri” Turns Stereotypes Upside Down

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I know I’m getting old when Michelle Pfeiffer – she who played one of the high-school teenyboppers in “Grease 2” – takes a role as a Woman of a Certain Age.
In “Chéri,” the Belle Époque film playing at the Tropic Cinema, Pfeiffer portrays an aging courtesan

An adaptation of two slim books by the French novelist Colette, “Chéri” chronicles the end of a six-year affair between Léa de Lonval (Pfeiffer) and a younger man known as Chéri (Rupert Friend). As Pfeiffer observes, “It seems that my leading men just keep getting younger the older I get.”

She turned 51 in April. Friend is only 28.

This costume drama wasn’t difficult for them, for both have had ample cinematic practice. Pfeiffer starred in “Dangerous Liaisons” and “The Age of Innocence.” Friend made his film debut in “The Libertine,” followed by “Pride & Prejudice” and more recently “The Young Victoria.”
In “Chéri,” Madame Charlotte Peloux (Kathy Bates) turns over her wastrel 19-year-old son to Léa for training in the ways of love. And love is what happens.

Six years later, when Madame Peloux decides to marry off her son to the daughter of another courtesan, everything unravels. Chéri retreats into a realm of fantasy, refusing to grow up. And Léa realizes she cannot stay young forever. The final scene of the film is memorable.
Filmed in France, this German co-production is directed by an Englishman. Stephan Frears (“Dangerous Liaison,” “The Queen”) gives us an opulent Paris of the Belle Époque – that lavish period between the late 19th century and World War I.

Considered one of France’s more venerable writers, Colette (1873 - 1954) wrote some fifty novels (including “Gigi,” which became the famous Lerner and Loewe musical). This lusty lady married three times and entertained many lovers … including her own stepson. So this December-May romance has a basis in actual experience.

Michelle Pfeiffer found the book sad. “It’s the tragedy of nobody really saying what they’re feeling and following their heart and their passions, and allowing the social taboos of the time to ruin their lives, really. And when it would have been so easy not to. And I think we can all relate to that. I think that we’ve all made choices in life that because it was the appropriate thing to do, and it was the socially acceptable thing to do.”

Is Pfeiffer living her role? “I was shooting this film on my 50th birthday. And I thought, well, isn’t that ironic? I am really heading into the eye of the storm here.”
However, she’s quick to point out, “My situation is different than Léa’s, but I have to tell you … if I didn’t have my family, if I didn’t love my life the way that I do, I didn’t have my health, I didn’t have all these things to be grateful for. This would be tough. This would be a tough b’day to have.”

Instead Michelle Pfeiffer embraces her age. “If you think hitting 40 is liberating,” she observes, “wait till you hit 50 – and I was surprised at how liberating it was.”

Hey, wait till she hits 60.
[from Solares Hill]

No comments: