Film Review: 'Cheri'

Michelle Pfeiffer in 'Cheri'.
Michelle Pfeiffer in 'Cheri'.
Great acting, pity about the plot...

> Cheri

Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, Rupert Friend, Anita Pallenburg, Frances Tomelty, Felicity Jones.

Rating: (M)

2 stars (out of 5)

Review by Mark Orton

Selecting Cheri for festival screenings is strange, but giving it a mainstream release is frankly mystifying. It's hard to know where to start.

Once you peel back the sumptuous layers of art nouveau set design, and endure the forced narrator's voice, the remaining 80-odd minutes simply induce narcolepsy.

Shot beautifully with a really subtle colour palette, there is no faulting the production values or the acting. Whatever impression you have of Michele Pfeiffer (Lea), her exquisite facial structure suits this perfectly. Rupert Friend (Cheri) is the token guy candy.

But no matter how many naked torso shots director Stephen Frears lingers on, there is no disguising a weak script and a plot that is dull with a capital D.

This adaptation of Collette succeeds for only as long as some of the quirkier characters are given room to breathe. Amusingly cynical banter between upper-class whores suggests there is something edgy in store.

After all, this is supposed to be about a ravishing 19-year-old narcissist who falls for one of the Belle Epoque courtesans.

But after each laboured setup, all we get is interminable shots of Friend pouting and Pfeiffer staring. It takes determination to hang with it, just to find out how Keith Richard's ex, Anita Pallenburg, has fared . . . not well.

Not only is her intoxicated gypsy cameo half-cooked, she looks remarkably like the Human Riff himself.

Quite how the director of My Beautiful Laundrette, The Hi-Lo Country and High Fidelity can turn in such turgid nonsense is odd.

Best thing: Michele Pfeiffer's lips.

Worst thing: Figuring there must be more to this than meets the eye ... then finding out there isn't.

See it with: A pillow and some eye-shades.

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