My Best Friend Review
"Love is sometimes sold, friendship never"
I have got to a certain stage in my life where my first response to new people is a defensive one. Although not unfriendly, people know I am very boundaried and a little austere. I also suffer from a real aloofness towards people who try too hard to befriend me.
The purpose of My Best Friend is to remind people like me to loosen up to the world. In a recent interview, Patrice Leconte, the film's director, said that his films are designed to tell people to embrace the world more and the warm clinch of My Best Friend is hard to shrug off.
Daniel Auteuil plays an art collector whose world has always revolved around himself and his possessions. He is bourgeois, aloof, a snob, unloveable and unloving. Dany Boon plays a taxi driver, a collector of trivia, a man whose relationships are superficial, a man with a common touch and unfulfilled dreams. Both men are lonely. When Auteuil derides a client's poorly attended funeral, his colleagues point out that he has no friends himself and he bets them that he will produce a best friend within 10 days.
Auteuil's efforts lead him to some unsettling revelations as he searches for this friend and the Capra line "No man is poor if he has friends" is inverted for the rich friendless art collector. Along this journey of humbling, he hires Boon to tutor him in his befriending skills and he begins to realise that Boon is becoming more than his paid help. I won't say anymore about the plot other than the film takes a fantastical sentimental turn in its final act.
Critically the film is based on the almost courtship between its two leads. Their cosmic differences of class, interests and emotional make-up make them almost like two halves of a platonic whole, and this film's evocation of the warmth and intimacy of friendship is exactly what Leconte does best. The two characters eventually exchange bonds of friendship in the shape of a realised dream and, wittily, a toaster, like lovers pledging their troth. This exchange is one which is beautiful in the way it captures the unexplained gestures and affection that are the real proof of any true relationship. Much as Hallyday and Rochefort in L'Homme Du Train, and Bonnaire and Fabrice Luchini in Intimate Strangers, Boon and Auteuil make a brilliant unlikely couple and their warmth is tangible. Auteuil is, as you would imagine, very good in an almost unsympathetic role like his Stephane in Un Coeur En Hiver. Boon is, surprisingly, his match and the heart of the film in a sincerely affecting role that he plays lightly and compassionately. Like many a comedian before him he possesses a rare touch with pathos and an everyman quality which is perfect for the universal intent of the film.
Leconte handles the interplay beautifully and continues his work with cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou much as he worked with Eduardo Serra before, with the possible inclusion of some more naturalistic camera movement alongside clever use of the 2.35:1 frame. I did feel that the climax of the film became overwrought as populist sentimentality overwhelmed good taste but I can see that this is part of Leconte's declared lighter intent. Leconte has talked of making only three more films, all of which will be light comedies, as he wants to make the world a better place. If those three films are as warm and big-hearted as My Best Friend, he might just succeed. As for me, his film left me thinking that perhaps boundaries are over rated. My Best Friend is good quality Leconte with two fine performances and a message for the world that is worth paying heed to.
My Best Friend goes on Limited Release in the UK from 11th May 2007.