My Best Friend (Mon Meilleur Ami) Patrice Leconte

My Best Friend (Mon Meilleur Ami) Patrice Leconte
Parisian antiques dealer François (Daniel Auteuil) has everything: luxury, money, a stylish apartment, but no friends. Over dinner, some close acquaintances reveal that they are indeed not his friends. In fact, they don’t like him — François is self-centred and arrogant. His business partner Catherine (Julie Gayet) makes him a bet: in ten days he must produce his best friend and he’ll get to keep a massive Greek vase he bought on the company tab. Fail to produce and she keeps it.

So François burns through his address book and even seeks out a childhood friend, whom it turns out always hated François’s guts. Desperate, François enlists a chatty, warm cabbie named Bruno (Dany Boon) to teach him how to make friends. "Be sociable, smile and sincere,” instructs Bruno. That’s too much of a challenge for François, who tries to pass off Bruno as his best friend. Will François win the wager? Will he deceive Bruno?

Veteran French director Patrice Leconte examines the nature of male friendship in this light-hearted comedy. Mon Meilleur Ami is entertaining but its leading performances by Auteuil and Boon save the film from sinking into sweetness. Boon is especially fine as the nice guy, spewing trivia like a little kid until he earns a spot on a national game show. Boon makes a strong foil to the crusty Auteuil.

The film’s weakness lies with François, who could have been meaner, more selfish and coarser. Leconte seems to hold back François, fearing that if he made his anti-hero too much of a curmudgeon he would lose his audience. I disagree. Auteuil is such a strong performer that he could have pushed the envelope without losing us.

Mon Meilleur Ami remains a pleasure to watch but more for its performances rather than story. (Christal)