I have an unhealthy affection for French cinema. There is something about the ability for most French filmmakers to open up the human psyche and present emotions and events in a frank and unfettered manner that mainstream or Hollywood cinema seems incapable of doing. I do not turn to French cinema to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside but rather to think abstractly about the nature of humanity. Even when they are tackling the same material that Hollywood covers again and again, most French directors are able to wring something interesting out of it. So when I saw Daniel Auteuil was a lead in a slight comedy about making friends as an adult and Patrice Leconte behind the camera, I knew that there was more than meets the eye. If only I could ever be right about my hunches.
Daniel Auteuil plays Francois, a cold art dealer. At a birthday party full of his “friends” he learns that most of them actually don’t like him very much. Depressed by this realization, he purchases an ancient Greek vase that depicts a male friendship for way too much money using his business account. His partner knows that their business cannot sustain this large purchase, so she presents a wager. If he can find a best friend in ten days, he can keep the vase. However if he cannot, the vase will be hers. So he goes on a mission to find a true friend and comes up empty. Through this journey, he meets a taxi driver who knows a lot of trivia and is desperate to get on a game show. He also has a certain charm with strangers that Francois is envious of. Francois asks Bruno (the taxi driver) to teach him how to be best friends with someone, but they end up becoming friends on the way.Confident that he has won his bet, Francois commissions Bruno to steal the vase from his living room for insurance claims. This ends up being a hoax and Bruno gets upset about being used as a pawn. Once Francois finally found a true friend, he did nothing but use him.
This movie was slight entertainment. There was nothing overtly wrong with the picture, it just didn’t add up to much. Each performance was strong, especially Daniel Auteuil. But to be fair Daniel Auteuil can read the newspaper out loud in a monotone voice and it would still be riveting. There were a couple of great comedic moments and dark wit that the director is known for, but nothing that wouldn’t be in a Hollywood version of this movie. Each character travels down a well-worn path that has been used since the beginning of movies. There are no surprises here. This is movie comfort food.