Reviewed by: Val Kermode

How refreshing! A sparkling romantic comedy that really delivers.

Jean (Gad Elmaleh) is a waiter in a luxury hotel on the French Riviera. Irene (Audrey Tautou) is a modern day Holly Golightly who mistakes him for a wealthy man. By the time Irene realises her mistake, Jean has fallen for her. He follows her to Nice, where she unashamedly allows him to spend all his money on her, then leaves when the money runs out.

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Jean cannot pay his hotel bill and is threatened with the police, but along comes wealthy Madeleine who has taken a fancy to him and Jean soon finds himself in the same business as Irene. Irene, amused by their new equality, decides to teach Jean some of the tricks of the trade, how to flirt, how to seduce and above all how to take, take, take. Soon the pair of them are shopping like Pretty Woman, but all Jean really wants is Irene. However, when he walks out on Madeleine, she only sees it as raising the stakes and he’s soon back again with a shiny new scooter.

At first Jean finds it hard to forget he’s a waiter. But soon he’s using his inside knowledge and skills to advantage. There’s a very funny scene where he interrupts Irene’s partner’s bedtime fun by pretending to be room service on the phone offering a special breakfast menu for seniors.

One can imagine how this would have been handled by a Hollywood director and ruined by big name Hollywood stars. There are none of those unwelcome ingredients which have become obligatory in most romcoms, the wacky best friends subplot, the over the top comedy gay couple, the general mockery of anyone old, ugly, overweight… But I digress. Instead we have something quite captivating, cleverly written and beautifully played by the two leads, who are both engaging from the start. Even the older characters paying for sex are treated with a certain amount of sympathy. Elmaleh is particularly affecting as Jean. Without any backstory, he manages to make him into a fully rounded character, one we care about.

Irene tells a despondent Jean “You have youth and charm. Charm is better than beauty. You can resist beauty. You can’t resist charm.” This is a very charming film.

Reviewed on: 05 Jun 2008
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A young woman in search of a rich husband seduces a penniless waiter by mistake.
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Katy Carter ****

Director: Pierre Salvadori

Writer: Benoît Graffin, Pierre Salvadori

Starring: Gad Elmaleh, Audrey Tautou, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff, Jacques Spiesser, Annelise Hesme

Year: 2006

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision


French 2008

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If you like this, try:

Pretty Woman