Here’s the best bit of insider wisdom that the new Audrey Tautou rom-com Priceless offers us about the art of being a professional gold digger: The key is to pepper your mark with halting, incomplete sentences that suggest unfathomable depths of mystery and desire, until they welcome you into their beds and open their checkbooks.
Tautou plays Irène, who makes her living snaring wealthy suitors across the entire south of France. One night while staying at a luxury hotel, she mistakes Jean (Elmaleh), a charming but penniless bartender, for a rich man and takes him to bed. When she finds out the truth, she ditches him. But Jean is so smitten that he embarks on a desperate, and expensive, campaign to woo her back.
The movie is a trifle, really, and the sexually sophisticated French are to blame. The romantic betrayals that sprout up here and there are met not with the teary-eyed (and comic) devastation you’d expect from naïve Americans, but instead with a world-weary, c’est la vie shrug. I rather like the mellow approach of the French, but Priceless could use a few dollops of outrageousness.
Not that the leads don’t make for good company. The appealing Elmaleh plays Jean as a love-struck fool trying clumsily to play it cool. In the movie’s best scene, Irène takes Jean to an insanely expensive restaurant, and he must hastily retire to the bathroom and phone his accountant to transfer his pension into his checking account to cover the cost. As he gradually learns some of Irène’s tradecraft, his wide blue eyes skillfully shift between bewilderment and shrewd calculation.
But it’s really Tautou we want to see. Her Irène is not so despicable as to be truly mesmerizing—early on, when she blows her chance with a prospective mark, she chides herself as a “stupid cow,” and we know right then she’s not all bad. But, I suppose, who cares? Tautou throws off charm, wit and no small amount of sex appeal. Ah … that slinky figure, shown off to amazing effect in a variety of gorgeous outfits and swimwear. Those mesmerizing brown eyes … such a pool of vivid emotions.
I’d like to … I’d love to … Ms. Tautou, the thing is …