Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates, Felicity Jones, Bette Bourne, Iben Hjejle, Nichola McAuliffe, Anita Pallenberg, Frances Tomelty, Harriet Walter
Written by: Christopher Hampton, based on a novel by Colette
Directed by: Stephen Frears
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content and brief drug use
Running Time: 92
Date: 03/19/2013

Cheri (2009)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Scandal Sheets

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Still unquestionably beautiful, Michelle Pfeiffer plays Lea de Lonval, a retired courtesan who embarks upon an unexpected six-year affair with the son of a former colleague (Kathy Bates), a pouty, drawn, spoiled brat, nicknamed "Cheri" (Rupert Friend). At the end of the six years, Cheri enters into an arranged marriage with a lovely young woman called Edmee (Felicity Jones), while Lea disappears to a glamorous hotel, hoping to make everyone think she's embarked upon a new and exciting secret affair. In reality, Cheri and Lea are in torment, continually pining for one another. Director Stephen Frears seems like the right man for the job to adapt Colette's 1920 novel to into a new big screen version. After all, his similarly sexy costume drama Dangerous Liaisons (1988) was another Oscar-winning hit. And in his Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) he dealt with issues of sexuality and censorship on the stage, so he seems prepped to make something really sexy and full of wit and charm, especially given that he's re-teamed with his Dangerous Liaisons star Pfeiffer. It's a win-win scenario that quickly turns lose-lose. Cheri is dead on arrival, a cold fish. It just lies there, too lethargic to be funny and too timid to be sexy, but not deep enough for any real drama. We get lots of scenes with Cheri and Lea with rumpled hair, lying on rumpled sheets, but without any hint of an irresistible carnal desire. (Pfeiffer remains modestly covered.) It's as if the movie were more concerned with thread counts than with lust or romance.

DVD Details: Miramax's DVD comes with about 2 minutes of deleted scenes (why did they bother?), and a 9-minute "making of" featurette, plus previews.

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