It's common for people to have at least one friend they don't particularly like, yet hold onto out of sentiment, shared interests, or sheer inertia. In Patrice Leconte's My Best Friend, wealthy businessman Daniel Auteuil wakes up to the disquieting fact that none of his supposed friends particularly like him. He has plenty of co-workers, acquaintances, and contacts, but nothing more. In a bid to stave off a profound existential crisis, he agrees to one of those gimmicky bets that fuel high-concept comedies: If he can produce a best friend by the end of the month, he'll get to keep an expensive vase. If he loses, his partner gets it.
Friend initially mines its promising premise for bracing, uncomfortable laughter, as an overconfident and increasingly mortified Auteuil discovers just how tenuous and calculated his bonds are with the people he considers friends. It's too bad the film devolves into a fairly standard mismatched-buddy comedy once Auteuil hires know-it-all cab driver Dany Boon to teach him how to make friends. In an obvious turn, he finds that the answer to his problems might just be his affable, salt-of-the-earth tutor, an inveterate quiz-show fan too riddled with anxiety to achieve his dream of cleaning up on-air.
Boon's surface gregariousness masks the fact that he isn't much better at forming meaningful alliances than Auteuil. He's got plenty of friendly acquaintances, but few genuine soulmates. Auteuil and Boon are separated by class but united in their loneliness and hunger for meaningful connections. Friend follows a predictable arc as their relationship progresses from wariness to unlikely friendship to inevitable betrayal. And any film that feels the need to borrow the fake, strained drama of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire for an extended climax suffers from a dearth of creativity. Affable and slight, Friend is too intent on being likeable to delve into the uncomfortable truths just beneath its surface. Auteuil and Boon's appealing performances keep the film engaging throughout, but it's easy to pine for a dark, challenging film with this premise, pitched more toward a harrowing emotional reckoning than this film's ambiguous but inevitable happy ending. Is it at all surprising that an American remake is already in the works?