Sun August 19, 2007
My Best Friend
A good bet
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
Some are lucky to have so many friends that identifying a best friend is not easy; others have none. Francois (Daniel Auteuil) makes a bet with his business partner, Catherine (Julie Gayet), and friends at his birthday dinner that within ten days he can show them his best friend. They are confident he cannot.
A simple premise, a simple bet most of us could win given the same amount of time. French director Patrice Laconte (Girl on the Bridge, Man on the Train) in his breezy but unevenly humorous My Best Friend has once again created a sometime two-hander in which Francoise engages an outgoing cabbie, Bruno (Dany Boon), to help him identify the traits of a best friend and subsequently dredge that friend out of Francoise's past or present. The film is spent largely on the search, poignant in tracing the growing friendship between the two hunters and revealing the vagaries of any friendship, best or regular.
The challenge in the bet is carefully parsed with a series of characters and incidents that do more to define who Francoise is than who his uber friend might be. The leitmotif best exemplifying the fragile and elusive nature of best friendship is an expensive antique vase dealer Francoise buys on impulse and becomes the prize for the bet. There's a parallel between the vase and the friendship that could easily be drawn by a discerning, often European audience. Another avenue of exploring the meaning of friendship is the competition on the French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Another sub theme comes in the relationship between Francoise and his business partner, an attractive woman with multiple challenging friendships herself. And then the other friends at the party. Everyone, it seems, must deal with friendship, whether in a bet or reality.
For some Americans, the whole idea of deconstructing friendship in a movie might be uncomfortable and boring. In the hands of a master European director for an international audience, it is amusing and sometimes shocking.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com