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aka - Mon Meilleur Ami
France 2007
Directed by
Patrice Leconte
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

My Best Friend

Synopsis: François (Daniel Auteuil) is a Parisian antique dealer who has devoted so much of his life to buying and selling things that he has lost the ability to see people as anything else as the means to his next transaction. When the co-owner (Julie Gayet) of his upmarket gallery challenges him at a dinner party to produce a true friend, François wagers a 5th Century Greek vase that he has just bought on his ability to produce one with 10 days. His problem is he knows he doesn’t have a friend and he doesn’t want to lose either face or his vase.

In many ways Patrice Leconte’s latest film is an exercise in the Francis Veber manner of odd-couple comedy. But if Veber is a specialist in broad farce, Leconte whose work in general typifies high-end, mainstream French cinema, applies to his rendition a broader palette. Whilst this works to some extent against the film, principally by lowering the gag quotient, on the other hand there is a degree of nuance that lifts it above Veber’s rather facile and templated efforts. 

It is tempting to see in François (or if you like, Auteuil) an alter ego for Leconte as perhaps Depardieu might be for Veber. The one is reserved and anti-social as the other is gauche and gregarious. Leconte’s film is essentially defined by this contrast. Instead of combining two buffoons and playing out a succession of social malapropisms as Veber characteristically does, Leconte takes two retiring and mild-mannered individuals and depicts with gentle humour what happens when one mistakes the other as the antithesis of himself.

Auteuil, in a performance that is many ways reminiscent of the role that first brought him international attention, Ugolin in Berri’s 1987 Jean De Florette, is perfectly cast as a perplexed man unable to understand what the world expects from him and who seeks refuge from it in inanimate objects. Leconte’s script, penned with Jérôme Tonerre and Olivier Dazat. whilst rather forced in setting up the main play, François’s search for his humanity, convincingly nails the character, is cleverly-plotted and delivers what is a surprisingly moving variation on the Capra-esque chestnut of what really matters in life. Here Dany Boon as the good-natured taxi driver, Bruno Boulet,  who tries to give François lessons in sociability and eventually, and unintentionally, teaches him a more profound lesson is an equally good foil for Auteil. 

My Best Friend is a feel-good movie that some may too easily dismiss but it delivers its message with  intelligence, charm and good humour.




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