My Best Friend
Directed by Patrice Leconte. Starring Daniel Auteuil, Dany Boon, Julie Gayet, Julie Durand, Henri Garcin, Jacques Mathou, Marie Pillet, Élisabeth Bourgine. (2006, PG-13, 94 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Aug. 3, 2007
For my money, there’s no more maddening tone in art than that of agreeability. Are we really so frazzled by the troubles of the world that we’ve convinced ourselves what we want most from our movies is a comforting, cradling sense of amiability – the cinematic equivalent of a hot cup of tea sipped on a Sunday morning while wearing wool socks and pajamas? To quote the decidedly unamiable Don Logan, the volcano of violent energy played by Ben Kingsley in 2001’s Sexy Beast: “No! No! No! No! No! No! No!” – and then he’d probably throttle someone about the head for making him repeat himself. My Best Friend, the latest in French writer/director Leconte’s long and varied oeuvre, is just such a pair of cozy pajamas: What it lacks in style and controversy it compensates for in genial blandness, like a bologna sandwich or the most recent Coldplay albums. The film takes us inside the hermetic world of François Coste (Auteuil), an antiques dealer who, though deep into his sixth decade on the planet, is more comfortable in the company of fifth century Greek vases than that of his fellow Parisians. Upon making a bet with his skeptical business partner, Catherine (Gayet), that he does in fact have at least one true friend in this world, the hapless François enlists the help of a cab driver named Bruno (Boon) to show him the basics of social interaction so that he can find himself a best friend and bring him to Catherine before the end of the month. At first, François is a total bust as a social creature, routinely scaring away women and buying drinks for strangers who promptly leave him standing alone at the bar. But slowly he starts coming around after Bruno teaches him that smiling, being sociable, and being sincere are the keys to making friends. Smiling, sociability, sincerity: the three S’s of a friend-filled life. With a philosophy like that, how could a movie possibly go wrong? It’s like expecting people to get emotionally involved in a story about reading, writing, and arithmetic. If sex, gangsters, and killing Nazis are three of the most enlivening topics in the movies, then let us count friendship as one of the most tiresome, right up there with grooming horses and sharing for sheer thrills.