My Best Friend

My Best Friend


Reviewed by: Jeff Robson

I don’t know if it’s a sign of middle age but, having spent most of my movie geek life wanting to be Clint Eastwood or Sean Connery, I realise I’d now prefer to be Daniel Auteuil.

His screen persona embodies the Gallic alpha male: handsome in a weathered, mature way, smart in both senses of the word and usually possessed of a tasteful home and a beautiful girlfriend.

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So for all us Rosbifs plagued by feelings of inadequacy there’s much fun to be had in Patrice Leconte’s delightfully sure-footed comedy, which gives his leading man the ultimate enviable lifestyle and then explores the gaping hole where its heart should be.

We first encounter Auteuil’s Francois, a successful Paris antiques dealer, at a sparsely-attended funeral in a beautiful Parisian church. As he mutters platitudes to the grieving widow, it becomes clear the deceased was a client and Francois is only there to wheedle some cut-price furniture from her.

Next he meets his business partner Catherine (Julie Gayet) at an auction and pays way over the odds for a Greek vase made by a nobleman for his dying friend. Francois offers no explanation for the purchase, despite the fact that the business is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

His day is rounded off by dinner at a smart restaurant with his equally well-heeled coterie. He casually remarks that there were only seven people at the funeral – and is told in no uncertain terms that he’d be lucky to get that many.

Understandably taken aback, he probes the dinner table as to why that should be. Catherine leads a few minutes of exquisitely polite character assassination (recalling Leconte’s 1996 masterpiece Ridicule) which concludes that Francois is a shallow, selfish, social inadequate who has never had a true friend in his life.

Quelle horreur, as they say. Francois fights back, but struggles to name a proper friend (as opposed to business associates and dining companions). Eventually Catherine makes a bet: produce your best friend by the end of the month or the vase gets sold.

Francois’ initial confidence in winning the wager soon evaporates when a systematic trawl through his address book reveals that everyone he knows hates his guts. As the deadline approaches he resorts to ever more desperate measures: furtively checking the ‘win friends and influence people’ section of bookshops, accosting total strangers and attending seminars.

In all this he’s being ferried around by Bruno (Dany Boon), a taxi driver with an obsession for quiz show trivia – and a natural geniality that enables him to strike up acquaintances with delivery men, old ladies and even Francois’s wayward daughter Louise (Julie Durand). Francois asks Bruno to teach him how it’s done and, as their relationship develops, wonders if the geeky but loveable cabbie isn’t just the man he needs to win the bet...

The similarities with two of Leconte’s recent films, L’Homme Du Train and Confidences Trop Intimes are very noticeable; all these films are about two very different people who find they have more in common than they first thought, and begin to enjoy dipping a toe into each other’s world. But what could have been a very schematic character study with a pat moral telegraphed well in advance spirals in all kinds of fun directions as some sparky plotting takes over.

Francois decides to test Bruno’s increasing devotion and, without giving too much away, the climax takes in a burglary, an unexpected revelation and the French version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Not your typical Gallic arthouse stuff, then, for which relief, much thanks. Initially some of the scenes (all perfectly paced and framed) do have that tone of autumnal decorousness which always makes me think of the Big Train sketch where Catherine Tate embarks on a doomed affair with a set of traffic lights. But such slap-them-they’re-French moments are few and far between. As Leconte makes clear, Francois’ chic apartment is an empty shell, his fashionable business is in hock to the bank and his girlfriend is a long-suffering trophy, as much an accessory as anything in his life.

He embraces Bruno’s lifestyle of dinner with the parents and Sundays at the football with gusto, but his treatment of his new ‘best friend’ makes clear he still has a lot to learn about what friendship truly means and the things that are really valuable in life. This sounds forced and sentimental; believe me it’s not. Leconte’s film constantly amuses and surprises, genuinely uplifting while making very clear that people can be a bit rubbish sometimes. I don’t subscribe to the ‘if it’s French it must be brilliant’ school of reviewing. But you’ve got to admit they do this kind of thing so well. See it before Hollywood does a sledgehammer remake starring Steve Martin and Jim Carrey.

Reviewed on: 03 Apr 2007
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A successful antiques dealer, challenged by his dinner companions to introduce his best friend for a bet, realises he doesn’t have one.
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Director: Patrice Leconte

Writer: Olivier Dazat, Patrice Leconte

Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Dany Boon, Julie Gayet, Julie Durand, Henri Garcin, Jacques Mathou, Marie Pillet, Élisabeth Bourgine, Jacques Spiesser, Audrey Marnay, Anne Le Ny

Year: 2006

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France


Tribeca 2007

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If you like this, try:

L'Homme Du Train