Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Priceless

There's no froth like French froth. And few French-froth-purveyors are as adept as Pierre Salvadori, who knows exactly how to make romantic complications and class conflict as pleasantly diverting as a day at the beach—and, for better or worse, as placid. In Salvadori's Priceless, Audrey Tautou plays a skilled gold-digger in the Holly Golightly mold who mistakes resort-hotel employee Gad Elmaleh for a swell. They share a night of passion, and when Tautou returns a year later, they share another night. But the second time around, Tautou's well-heeled fiancé finds her out, then kicks her out. She races back to Elmaleh, who's so smitten that he's willing to tap into his savings and investments in order to give Tautou the kind of life she craves. It takes less than 24 hours for her to bankrupt him.

That's when Salvadori and his co-writer Benoît Graffin concoct a smart twist. Broke and in debt in Nice, Elmaleh wins the sympathy of rich widow Marie-Christine Adam, who makes him her own "kept man." So when Tautou and Elmaleh next meet in Monte Carlo, they compare notes about how to be a good gigolo. Tautou instructs Elmaleh to perfect a "close but distant" look, and to speak in unfinished sentences, in order to court an air of mystery. Only Adam isn't like one of Tautou's dim, horny aristocrats; she's far more hard-bitten and impatient. And Elmaleh isn't like Tautou, because he can walk away from luxury whenever he wants.

Unlike Salvadori's previous comedy, 2003's Après Vous, Priceless is less preposterous, and more grounded in character—even though Tautou and Elmaleh remain steadfastly movie characters. No one could be as absurdly servile as Elmaleh, though it's still funny and a little poignant how quickly he adjusts to being a high-end prostitute. ("I'm so used to saying yes that I don't dare say no," he explains.) But the real memorable figure in the story is Tautou, who at the beginning of Priceless is so confident in her trade that she can expertly opine on how much everything costs and how much she deserves, yet by the end of the film, realizes that after years of living off men, she hasn't really held onto anything of worth.