Michelle Pfeiffer stars as a highly sought-after courtesan in Cheri, a dull and unremarkable period piece from Stephen Frears, the director of The Queen. Kathy Bates and Rupert Friend also star.
Pfeiffer is Lea de Lonval, who for years has been a high class courtesan in pre-World War I Paris. Though she's starting to get a bit older, she's still gorgeous, and her friend Madame Peloux (Bates) asks her to teach her spoiled 19-year old son Cheri (Friend) a thing or two about women. But what begins as simple sex turns into a more involved relationship, but a variety of circumstances keep their love from being fully acknowledged.
Yawn. More than likely, you didn't even make it through that entire paragraph out of pure boredom. Period pieces are tougher than ever to pull off these days, especially if you take an old-school approach like Frears does here. Cheri lacks sophistication or edginess, and is the very essence of what makes period pieces so despised in some circles. It's almost as if Frears is trying to test the patience of his audience. The movie plods along through cheerfully bright Victorian sets, with girlish actors interacting with women in corsets and a lot of hammy, stodgy accents. There's nothing original or captivating about the filmmaking to make Cheri stand out from the typical BBC drama.
The story itself is uninteresting and abysmally dull. The chemistry between Pfeiffer and the much-younger Friend is nonexistent, and even the screenplay doesn't do much to convince us otherwise. Pfeiffer and the others drone through their performances, as if they knew where this film was going to end up before it hit the editing room.
This review may be overly harsh, but not a single moment of Cheri stands out as worthwhile, let alone memorable. Pfeiffer still has some ammunition left in her, but she's not going to hit the target with a period piece such as this.
As for the DVD, it has a fairly minimal set of special features: a couple deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette. Pretty dull, but you can't expect too much for a film like this.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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