My Best Friend (Mon Meilleur Ami)
Though he doesn't usually
get mentioned in the same breath as Scorcese, 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 introduce 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
kind of 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.