Priceless is a movie I went into knowing almost absolutely nothing about, and maybe that's best. But I'm still gonna tell you about it. The only thing I knew about it was that it starred Audrey Tatou, that adorable French imp that exudes cuteness by the barrel. I was startled a bit when it turns out she's a horrible person (even one with a good heart eventually), but I'm getting ahead of myself. Tatou is a huge star in France, eventually making her way across the Atlantic to star with Tom Hanks in the mega-hit The DaVinci Code. Priceless is the movie she must've meant as her statement that she wasn't abandoning her homeland for the glitz of Hollywood just because the opportunity presented itself.
As much as I make fun of the French, they really do have their positives. Tatou plays Irene, but instead of hearing the ugly American Eye-reen pronunciation (sorry non-existent Irene's who read my blog) throughout the movie, we get the lovely Eh-rena. I just kinda like that. Anyway, Irene is a beautiful young woman looking to become some lucky old guys trophy wife. She's staying at a hotel with her current beau when she runs into Jean (again, not Gene, or John even, but Zhawn, I suppose is how you'd spell the pronunciation), whom she takes for a rich guest alone in the bar. She takes him for such because he's passed out on the couch in the bar and wearing a tux. In actuality, he's the bartender she assumes has disappeared. Jean impresses her by hopping behind the bar and fixing her girly drinks in honor of her birthday. They go to bed, but wake up the next day and don't see each other again. Well, not immediately anyway. It's a romantic-comedy, of course they see each other again. And misunderstandings ensue. But thankfully, the movie takes a different route than expected once Irene finds out who Jean really is.
Jean is played by Moroccan stand up comic Gad Elmaleh, who reminds me of a French speaking Buster Keaton. He's a dead ringer for Keaton looks wise, and his impeccable comedic timing also reminded me of something Keaton might've done if he'd still been alive today (if he was making a rom-com anyway, there's no Keaton-esque stunts here). He and Tatou have terrific chemistry together, him playing the innocent and lovable young guy trapped in the web of an untrustworthy woman. Tatou, of course, playing said woman, but with a wonderful intelligence and heart that I wasn't expecting from her. There's also the point of the French (more specifically here, writer/director Pierre Salvadori) knowing when to take their time developing the story and characters so that both the comedy and the romance work on such a high level, especially when compared to their American rom-com counterparts.
Also on top of all of that is the gorgeously filmed scenery of the French coast where much of the movie takes place. The scenery itself is beautiful, but it's even more impressively photographed by the filmmakers than it needs to be, giving us a tremendous viewing experience on a story, acting, and visual level. So check Priceless out if you want to laugh a bit, be taken in by some wonderful locations, and be swept away by a love story of the oldest kind, just done perfectly. Movies like Priceless are always welcome to show to anyone who thinks "foreign cinema" is made up solely of stuffy old classics or depressing modern tales, and to remind those of us who delve more frequently into non-English speaking movies of the same thing. Priceless is breezy, sexy, beautiful, romantic, involving, and most of all a whole lot of fun.