Stephen Frears? makes thoroughly professional and immensely entertaining stories that pay particular attention to characters, their flaws, emotions and deepest desires. In Cheri, he has another dandy. The chemistry betwee... more »n Pfeiffer and Friend is positively combustible. One feels the hunger in each, the rising physical passion and emotional vulnerability in two people who, if asked, would scorn love as a human weakness.
Darius Khondji?s mood-catching cinematography, Consolata Boyle?s eye-catching costumes and Alan MacDonald?s gorgeous sets are all entertainment in themselves. But the greatest contribution comes from composer Alexandre Desplat whose nostalgic, romantic, melancholy score evokes the period perfectly.
Matthew M. from WAILUKU, HI Reviewed on 3/22/2011...
It was delightful!
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Steven H. (sehamilton) from BIRMINGHAM, AL Reviewed on 6/9/2010...
Silly me! From the cover I assumed Michelle Pfeiffer was "Cheri". Imagine my surprise when Cheri turns out to be a high-cheekboned, sunken-cheeked, makeup wearing snotty 19 year old male who becomes her lover. Ms. Pfeiffer is, as always, captivating and beautiful. The scenery is wonderful and visually pleasing. However, these positives can't outweigh the negatives of Rupert Friend's Cheri character: a wholly self-absorbed, self-centered, condescending, ill-tempered, disrespectful misogynist. And while it's necessary to suspend belief to get into most movies, I found it difficult to imagine Kathy Bates as a courtesan on the level of Pfeiffer's character. (Then again, I can't watch her in anything without filtering her performance through the horrendous visual image of Bates nude in About Schmidt. Is there a shuddering emoticon I could insert here?) Pfeiffer brings realism and heartbreak to her performance, thereby ensuring the viewer sees the core of her character's insecurity that lies under the cool facade presented to the world. From the cover I also imagined this would be a cheerful movie in which a woman found happiness; not the case. Next time, I'll make sure to read the back cover's synopsis of the movie (although that, too, is often misleading). 3 stars.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
I'm Old Enough to Be Your Mother
Chris Pandolfi | Los Angeles, CA | 07/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's a fleeting but telling moment in Stephen Frears' "Chéri" when the aging Lea de Lonval (Michelle Pfeiffer) stands on the balcony of her hotel suite, staring down at a much younger man lifting weights on the beach. Their eyes lock for a moment, and the young man turns ever so slightly to give her a better look at his biceps. It's not as if she couldn't have this man; she is, after all, a fabulously rich courtesan, one of the most successful to emerge from the La Belle Epoque era at the turn of the last century. Unfortunately, the man she gazes upon is nothing more than reminders of what she no longer has, one being her young lover, the other being youth itself. She must now go through the process of letting go and moving on, a feat that proves to be much easier said than done.
The story of "Chéri" is indeed a tragedy, but Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (who adapted the original novel by Colette) clearly had no desire to make the audience cry. Rather, they wanted to be plain and to the point, realistic instead of sentimental--they wanted the audience to ruminate on what's possible given the situation. While this is certainly one of the film's greatest strengths, most of the success is due to the performances, which are dramatically charming yet believable at the same time. Pfeiffer is especially wonderful as Lea, a woman with who clearly has feelings yet has made a career out of repressing them. It's not in a courtesan's best interest to speak her mind or fall in love, but as we all know, emotion can often times get the better of us when we're distracted.
The story: Lea is beseeched by her equally rich friend/rival, a former courtesan named Charlotte Peloux (Kathy Bates), to persuade her son, Fred, who Lea has known since he was a child and has nicknamed Chéri (Rupert Friend). At age nineteen, Charlotte feels that Fred is old enough to marry and have grandchildren, which is really what this is all about. Unfortunately, Fred is moody and spiteful, not at all mature enough to be a husband or father. Charlotte wants Lea to make a man out of her son. What was intended to be a few weeks of conditioning ended up becoming six years of decadent passion, Lea the provider of spacious rooms and lavish gifts, Fred the self-indulgent boy who happily takes what she freely offers. Freud would have a field day with this one, seeing as Lea and Fred essentially share a mother/son relationship augmented by sex.
When Fred returns to his actual mother, he learns that she has arranged a marriage for him--to Edmee (Felicity Jones), the eighteen-year-old daughter of Marie Laurie (Iben Hjejle), another courtesan. Only then do Fred and Lea realize that their casual relationship has grown into love. Partly as a way to cope with her feelings and partly as a way to make Fred jealous, Lea secretly goes on a retreat to a seaside hotel, telling not a soul where she is or for how long she will be there. During this time, she continues to make advances on rich and impressionable young men. Likewise, Fred continues to be his miserable self, initially showing no real interest in his new wife. There does come a moment, however, when he realizes that he and Edmee have more in common than he first thought; both were raised by mothers who had no real interest in them except at such moments when it suited them best. In essence, they're orphans.
The tragedy of this story comes from the knowledge that Lea and Fred were destined to fall in love yet born too far apart. The film handles this not with weepy melodrama but with a sad, reserved dignity, the kind that comes from adherence to strict professional guidelines. Courtesans in particular have it hard, financially well off but socially shunned. The only outlets they seem to have are other courtesans, who rely on the same mindless topics for every conversation. Long term relationships are certainly out of the question; it's not about falling in love, but supporting yourself. Lea, desperately clinging to the idea of recapturing her youth with Fred, conveniently ignores this cardinal rule. One wonders if she knew all along how disastrous it is to play games in matters of the heart.
A large part of the reason this movie works so well is because of Michelle Pfeiffer, who gives Lea such wonderful charm and poise, her breathy, exaggerated voice the very embodiment of beauty, pleasure, and extravagance, all available for a price. But all the actors are very well cast. Kathy Bates is priceless as the overbearing Madame Peloux, and Rupert Friend brings great arrogance and immaturity to the title character. "Chéri" is also a triumph of visual appeal, production designer Alan MacDonald, cinematographer Darius Khondji, and costume designer Consolata Boyle convincingly evoking the look and feel of early twentieth century Paris. The entire film is a sensual experience that envelopes the audience, a somber but lovely excursion into a world of carefree opulence, hidden feelings, and troubled romances. It's practically a tragedy waiting to happen."
Not bad but too skinny!!!
Mr. Bernie Tinirau | Sydney.Australia | 09/25/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"After all the critical acclaim this movie received i was looking forward to see this movie. The story was quite good,the acting too,the music was particularly nice also. Michelle Pfeiffer is beautiful but unfortunately i thought that she looked painfully thin and the dresses she wore seemed to just hang on her ,women in that era were quite plump and i just did not see her as a believable courtisane. Cathy Bates was miscast in this role i feel.She was badly overacting and i think they should have used an english actress to play the part, maybe Emma Thomson or Miranda Richardson. Rupert Friend was good and believable in the part and i see a great future for him at the movies. Don't get me wrong it wasn't unpleasant but but it could have been so much better."
Grand Filmmaking With Great Stars
Michael C. Smith | San Francisco, CA United States | 07/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A rapture of visual, audio and cinematic emotional brilliance all tied with a killer last line. What a wonder is set before the viewer when one enters the world of "Cheri". The visual richness of this parfait of the Belle Epoch is breathtaking from the rich creamy art neuveau architecture to the gloriously realized costumes of the early 20th century. What they only indicated in "Titanic" of the same period costumes. Explodes in luxury and in a sense informs the eye to the scene at hand and seems less costume than authentic clothing. As Cinema "Cheri" succeeds as more than an adaptation of a Collette novel but becomes a world unto it's own. Here we are presented with some of our finest female performers at the top of their game. In short I am speaking of Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates. As former courtesan rivals who are now aging friends they come together to define the last part of their lives and the beginning of Bates' son's life in a remarkable way. Kathy Bates goes deep into the complexities of her mix of comedy and nuanced drama in the same way she did with Annie Wilkes. Not to say that the characters of Annie and Madame Peloux are anything alike. But Miss Bates takes this role to a superior level while all the while not letting you see her do her magic. She is just THERE! The scene where her face decays from a radioactively sunny laugh to reveal her true deepest disgust her spoiled soul is priceless. Then there is Michelle Pfeiffer as Lea de Lonval, at fifty one she may be older that the literary Lea but she has never been more luminous or nearly goddess like. To look at her is to look upon a woman of a certain age that is ageless in her embrace of times changing hands upon her face. But there is more. This may be the pinnacle of her career, the role of her lifetime. She is Lea in so many levels both within her acting and in a sense as an actress. She is stunning and brings forth the soul of a great character as only our finest actors can. But all of this would seem a delightful trifle, a light story of an aging courtesan and her young lover if it were not for the narration that gives the film added depth and gravitas. I asked a friend today what he thought of the final outcome of the story. Of what the narrator reveals of what became of Cheri. He tossed it off lightly and said that it seemed an after thought. He could not have been more wrong. He missed the whole point of the film. The last lines of the film that tell us of the ultimate fate of Lea and Cheri are what give this film an emotional strength, irony, and ultimately heart wrenching tragedy. It is the final twist set into a stunning jewel of a film that is as captivating and spellbinding as Lea's mysterious emerald ring. "
Thematically True and Tragic
G. Charles Steiner | San Francisco | 12/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is fine. It belongs in the canon of great movie classics because it stays thematically true to Colette's vision of a culture full of witty flippancy without sacrificing the profundities of love and intimate bonding between two people. I agree with many reviewers that Michelle Pfeiffer may appear too thin (although quite lovely to look at) or that Kathy Bates overacts and doesn't seem well-suited for her part. But these flaws are small and trivial in comparison to the huge canvas on screen showing the historical Age of the Belle Epoque and revealing the central drama of love between an older, experienced woman and courtesan and an innocent but hedonistic young man. What Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend manage to create together on screen is the love that Colette wanted her readers to understand and experience, however odd and even tasteless it may seem on first glance, and that love story unfolds beautifully on screen, although tragically, for both. It's a memorable film and makes you want to read Colette's novels. It was also quite lovely to experience vicariously two people on screen loving each other throughout difficulties and watch them sensually appreciate the loveliness of each other's looks as well, directly, without pretense, tenderly and without reserve, where the outer and the inner person for the other were one."
A Haunting Story Told So Well
RareRare | 03/26/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Colette would have approved. Despite some uneven casting, "Cheri" ultimately works onscreen. Kathy Bates is terribly miscast and misdirected. Michelle Pfeiffer struggles in the beginning, but ends up breaking your heart. Surprisingly it is the newcomer Rupert Friend (real-life boyfriend of Keira Knightley) as "Cheri" who is the glue that holds the piece together. He takes the viewer on a remarkable journey through the selfish psyche of a young man lost in a world he thinks he knows all too well. He shows us the callousness of a young spoiled rascal in the milleu of the Belle Epoque of courtesans and opium. It is Cheri who keeps us guessing as to what is going to happen. Pfeiffer ruins the surprise because a third of the way through she is already playing the ending.
I argued with a friend of mine who didn't think Pfeiffer was a convincing prostitute. But in the Belle Epoque, these women were not mere mortals. Kings gave their kingdoms away for the love of such beauties. And Pfeiffer is certainly in that category. Plus she does play the dichotomy in her character: a woman who loves Cheri as both a mother and a lover.
I can tell you're interested. I'll write no more, except to say, as I always say, take a chance on love. It's well worth it."