Cheri
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (27th December 2009).
The Film

Even though the use of terms like "cougar" and "milf" are new to me, they’ve suddenly become embedded cultural phenomena. New shows in 2009 like “Cougar Town” and “The Cougar” are all feeding off of a sudden hunger for the older woman/young man relationships made popular by “American Pie” (1999). But this sort of thing isn’t a new attitude, just a revival of an old trend. Based off of the 1920 novel by French author Colette, “Chéri” (2009) steps into the open cougar market with a new/old story of a young man and a much older Catwoman. I guess this movie is dedicated to all those kids that had a crush on Michelle Pfeiffer and dreamed of someday getting together, though after taking stock of the film even those kids are a little bit older than the titular character.

Pfeiffer plays the aging Léa de Lonval, an apparently retired courtesan in early 20th century Paris who has found that she is only able to spend time with her fellow old and retired courtesans. One day while visiting her old friend Madame Charlotte Peloux (Kathy Bates), she runs into Peloux’s son Fred (Rupert Friend) who she nicknamed Chéri or ‘dear’ when he was a young boy. A camp womanizer in his own right, Madame Peloux bemoans the lack of focus for her son and so Chéri and Léa start sleeping together, beginning a six year relationship. However after all that time Madame Peloux has had cravings of her own, but instead of a younger lover, it’s for grandchildren and so she arranges a marriage for Chéri that separates the two.

First impressions of this little bit of cougar-rotica were imagining the world of Misery, the protagonist of the books of “Misery” (1990), mostly because of the Victorian era setting and the presence of Kathy Bates. This is the sort of insanity that Annie Wilkes would have eaten up, the sort of forgotten love and isolation that would appeal to the psychopath in the middle of nowhere, with an ending that would drive her to insanity. It would be going easy on the movie to call it the sort of generic romance film that it embodies, but just the way it’s written and put together it just does absolutely nothing for me. Maybe that’s because I’m not exactly a romance novel person, but nothing about the script by Christopher Hampton even comes close to piquing my interest beyond a bit of annoyance at yet another cougar movie.

What disappointed me the most about the film was probably the involvement of Stephen Frears, who has done some great work like “High Fidelity” (2000) and "Dirty Pretty Things" (2002) that seemed to have their own lives and worlds that became all the more interesting with his directing. “Chéri” is just another mundane, 1900’s era European film that doesn’t go beyond old style motorcars and older looking attire. There’s one funny moment when Léa eyes a younger man from her beach side resort room, and he’s wearing the stereotypical striped lifting suit with comically shaped bar bells. After getting so much out of Frears other films, it’s impressive how much I just didn’t care about “Chéri” as it’s fairly lifeless.

But this is a film where almost everyone is to blame, so I can’t leave out the actors either. Pfeiffer just isn’t that engaging as Léa and the way she communicates her emotions just doesn’t seem to work in the film. But her performance looks Oscar worthy compared with Rupert Friend, who seems like a poor romance movie’s version of an aged Robert Pattinson. Yet in a movie so heavily steeped in the romance between two characters, there is no chemistry between Friend and Pfeiffer, even if their names have some alliteration. Stack that on top of the odd use of the mushy british accents by the U.S. actors for some Parisian courtesans in a period piece film, it’s a little annoying.

What happens is that I don’t care about the relationship and I don’t care about the story so I don’t care about the film. There are some larger ideas and emotions about love or something like that trying to go on in the film, but there’s really nothing there to make you engaged in any way. It’s an old-school romance movie that just doesn’t work on any level for me.

Video

Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic aspect ratio the film itself has a nice enough look to it, with a generally nice transfer with no real problems with artifacts or interlacing on the DVD. However the actual film of the movie seems to be lacking a bit in color with the contrast between either skin tones and environments or some of the colors in walls and paintings that feel a bit more muted than they should have bin. Still it’s not a bad dvd transfer, though it becomes a problem when not even the colors can keep me interested in the film.

Audio

With the English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track, it takes in a bit of the probems of the audio where the transfer is overall clean but the content isn’t much to talk about. The orchestral score of the film moves in predictable ways with the film, not really adding to the emotion but just following along with the film like a dog on a leash. The noises of the environment aren’t really there, a few ambient train noises or city noises to set the scene but the sound production seems overly minimal to really bring out a sound transfer as a good display of audio.
No other audio tracks are included, however there are English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Extras

Very few extras on this disc, only two deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and bonus trailers. Check my math but it would take you longer to watch all of the bonus trailers than it would to watch the actual special features. What a shame.

“The Making of Chéri” featurette runs for 8 minutes and 51 seconds, director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton describes the novel by Colette along with the rest of the cast, praising how wonderful the novel was and how it got everyone involved in the film. There are a few behind-the-scenes looks and descriptions of the world of courtesans. Not a particularly in-depth commentary, it’s mostly a praise fest without a ton of insight into the film, but there are still some good stories about the film coming together and an incredibly brief look around a few of the scenes to look at the production design.

There are two deleted scenes:

- “Turpentine” runs for 21 seconds, Lea explains the use of turpentine.
- “Never” runs for 1 minute and 49 seconds, Cheri looks for his tie pin and boots, Lea isn’t particularly helpful.

Bonus trailers are:

- “Everybody’s Fine” runs for 2 minutes and 32 seconds.
- “The Proposal” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.
- “Blu-Ray Disc” spot runs for 1 minute and 3 seconds.
- “BecomeanEx.org” PSA runs for 32 seconds.
- “Miramax Films” spot runs for 2 minutes and 37 seconds.
- “10 Things I Hate About You: 10th Anniversary Special Edition” runs for 57 seconds.
- “Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season” runs for 1 minute and 46 seconds.
- “Lost: The Complete Fifth Season” runs for 1 minute.
- “Old Dogs” runs for 2 minutes and 33 seconds.

Overall

The Film: F Video: B Audio: B Extras: D- Overall: C-

 


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