Saturday, May 12, 2007


Patrice Leconte is a director of whom I expect better. His 1996 period piece, RIDICULE was a quirky love story and a tart dissection of the superficiality of society. But with time, Leconte's ambitions have narrowed. This is not a problem per se. L'HOMME DU TRAIN, for example, was a small quiet film but unusual and affecting nonetheless. Quite simply, it told of two very different men who met by chance and tacitly decided to swap lives. But in MON MEILLEUR AMI, Leconte's sets the bar lower and still fails to meet it.

Leconte's basic point is that we have commodified relationships: we network more easily than we make friends. Contrasted with the Greeks' idolisation of friendship, pace Patrochlus and Achilles, modern-day "contacts" seem rather thin indeed. This modern fault is embodied in an antique dealer called François who isn't above the odd scam, but is short of any true friends. Challenged to produce a best friend by his colleague or forfeit an expensive vase, he sets about trying to become amiable. To do this, he engages a cheery taxi driver with a passion for trivia, called Bruno (Dany Boon). Auteuil plays François like a less loathsome version of David Brent. He's congenitally awkward - guaranteed to empty a bar even as he offers to buy everyone a round. By contrast, Boon's Bruno is a delightful creation and genuinely sympathetic.

It doesn't take a PhD to work out that Bruno and François will form an odd-ball friendship. Nor was it utterly surprising given the mawkish build-up that we'd end with a televised high-drama denouement with all the subtlety of the Julia Roberts declaration of love at the end of NOTTING HILL. What's missing is the wry understatement of L'HOMME DU TRAIN. Or indeed, a sustained comic element. In other words, MY BEST FRIEND may be nicely photographed and well-cast but it is also thinly written, patchy in its comedy, and obvious in its plotting and character development.

MON MEILLEUR AMI/MY BEST FRIEND played Toronto 2006 and opened in Italy, France and Belgium in 2006. It is currently playing in the UK and opens in Australia on Mat 24th and in the USA on July 13th.

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