13 08 2009

When I started this blog, my plan was to publish movie reviews in reverse chronological order, that is, starting with the most recent and moving backwards.  However, in my haste to crank out review after review, I skipped over “Cheri.”  I think that is a testament to the movie itself.  It is fairly forgettable and mediocre, the only bright spot being Michelle Pfeiffer’s spectacular performance.  Unfortunately, it will not receive the attention that it rightfully deserves because the rest of the movie is a chaotic mess with no narrative poise.

Lea (Pfeiffer) is an aging courtesan in the Belle Époque period in France who has one last fling with the introverted Cheri (Rupert Friend), the son of one of her best friends (played by Kathy Bates).  She teaches him lessons that his mother never did, including how to be kind to his future wife.  Although she denies it, Lea ends up falling for Cheri.  Unfortunately, he has to be married.  That was the first 30 minutes of the film.  The other hour was an absolute mess that bored me to tears.  By the time that the emotional climax of the film rolled around, I honestly couldn’t have cared less.

Pfeiffer is ablaze in “Cheri,” a welcome comeback to the role of a leading lady for the star.  She is willing to acknowledge and act her age, a rarity in Hollywood nowadays.  Lea is the only character whose emotions seem logical, and I think that is so only because of Pfeiffer.  Kathy Bates is bearable, but Rupert Friend is just horrific.  He thinks he can hide behind his looks and not act, and that never works.  He phones in a performance without any driver whatsoever.  The second act focuses more on him, which may be why it was so gut-wrenchingly awful to watch.

Movies set in this time period seem tailored (no pun intended) to win Oscars for their costumes, and the threads are intricately woven for this movie.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this won the Oscar for Best Costume Design.  The narrative power of the movie is quite frankly atrocious.  A narrator pops up randomly every once in a while to provide some worthless information.  Utilizing such a corny element in a movie that takes itself so seriously was an ill-advised move.  The movie jumps from emotion to emotion constantly, and all of them are poorly developed.  It goes from sensual to sweet to sad to boring to heartbreaking to just plain depressing in a matter of 90 minutes.  Overall, the movie just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, which is a shame because I do think that Pfeiffer gives one of the best performances of the year.  C+ / 2stars



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