DRAMA; 1hr 33min
STARRING: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates
Rupert, bare: Pfeiffer and Friend
At a delectable 51, Pfeiffer is an astute choice for the ripe role of retired 19th-century Parisian courtesan Léa de Lonval. Léa is a lady who knows what she fancies, and hedonistic 19-year-old Fred Peloux (Friend) — nicknamed Chéri by Léa — is the dewy distillation of youth. Their six-year liaison is a meshing of experience and promise. When it ends, with Chéri’s arranged marriage by his wily ex-courtesan mother (Bates), Léa and Chéri are crushed. Léa, at least, is old enough to know that life must take its course. Chéri, unhappy and rudderless, is not so sure.
With The Queen, director Stephen Frears (who also narrates here) took on a different type of high life. But belle époque courtesans were their own kind of royalty and this burnished, sensual production, based on French writer Colette’s novels Chéri (1920) and La Fin de Chéri (“The End of Chéri”, 1926), is a great love story grounded in inevitable loss. Léa is a piteous figure solely because she is mortal, and Pfeiffer holds her sorrow in every delicate line.