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Movie Review

My Best Friend
Directed by Patrice Leconte
Starring Daniel Auteuil, Dany Boon and Julie Gayet,
Sam North

Contrivance: An artifice, the slightest, flimsiest idea to hang a movie on

Patrice Leconte has made one of my favourite films in the past; ‘Girl on a Bridge’ starring Daniel Auteuil and Vanessa Paradise. A subtle blend of magic realism, good timing and gallic charm riven with tension and frustration. Sadly My Best Friend is not remotely in this league, nor his enigmatic 'Hairdresser's Husband' of ten years earlier.

There is another French movie made in a similar style to 'My Best Friend'. Francois Verber directed ‘Le Diner de Cons’ Dinner with Idiots, an alternating crass and stereotype-ist contraption that was also hysterically funny as well as cynically cruel. It is about a group of friends who regularly vie with each other to invite the ‘biggest idiot’ to dinner and see who wins each week. Of course the tables are turned the upper class technocrats whose idea this is are usurped by the wily ‘earthbound’ working man who exposes their shallow existence.

My Best Friend is from a similar strand of French culture and is an utter contrivance. It seems to be made up of the discarded jottings of ‘Diner au Cons’ – a diluted less barbed version of the same idea.

This film stars Daniel Auteuil as Francois and Dany Boon as Bruno. The conceit here is that Francois is a successful antiques dealer who has no real friends, only clients and other dealers. Even the woman in his life is a mere convenience and his wife has left him for being so self-centred and his daughter barely speaks to him or him her.

His business partner bets (a rather sexy lesbian played by Julie Gaynet) that he cannot produce a genuine best friend within ten days or he loses a valuable 5th Century Roman vase. That’s it.

It’s hard to believe that a man can be so successful and have no friends (in such a people business) but he accepts the challenge with enthusiasm. Only it isn’t as easy as he thought. Quickly he discovers that he is in fact detested by everyone he has jotted down on his best friends ‘list’. He is loathed and this is hard to accept.

Francois doesn’t seem to drive so he asks his regular taxi driver Bruno, who seems a friendly sort, to help him. Bruno is one of those people who accumulate billions of facts and feel compelled to tell people them, willing to hear or not agrees to help. He can see that our ‘hero’ can’t recognise a friend when he sees one and needs all the help he can get. He too is lonely but masks it well. Bruno's main ambition is to get on a TV knowledge quiz show and win but he suffers from nerves and can't get selected.

Francois sets out to find old schoolfriends but they too loathed him and he discovers that he is alone. He so blind, he cannot see that he has a friend sat right beside him in the shape of the taxi driver. But then the taxi driver is of a different class and well…it’s an impossible gulf.

Funny, one thinks of France and the guillotine and the abolition of class warfare and there it is, time and time again in all their movies. The technocrat class versus the common man.

How Francois the antique dealer finally finds a friend and realises that he has to change his ways is the meat and potatoes of this thin comedy. Auteuil pretty much cruises through and you can predict pretty much every event right through to the ‘phone a friend’ at the end of the movie…but hey, it was Saturday night and I still hadn’t recovered from the full horror of Spiderman 3 the week before, truly one of the worst films ever made. Say what you will about Patrice Leconte, he knows how to run a little comedy; wring laughs out of nothing and you at least never have to squirm in your seat with embarrassment. It’s a director and cast going through the motions but it’s charming and you will find yourself smiling. A contrivance perhaps but also a pleasant diversion. See it in the Chelsea Cinema, the best cinema in London.

It’s not a ringing endorsement but I hope he remembers how he made Girl on a Bridge one day and produces something as good again.

Patrice Leconte was born in Paris and studied at l╣Institut des Hautes ╔tudes Cinematographiques. His feature films include Viens chez moi, j╣habite chez une copine (81), Monsieur Hire (89), Tango (93), Le Parfum d╣Yvonne (94), Ridicule (96), Une Chance sur deux (98), La Fille sur le pont (99), La Veuve de Saint-Pierre (00), L╣Homme du train (02) and Mon meilleur ami (06).

© Sam North May 12th 2007

Sam is the Editor of Hackwriters and is the author of 'Another Place to Die' a thriller about the upcoming bird-flu pandemic

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