VIDEO: The trailer for Chéri.
Once chic, French author Colette has fallen out of favor, perhaps because her acceptance of male dominance offends women's-libbers and her embrace of female carnality offends chauvinist men. Stephen Frears's adaptation of her 1920 novel won't revitalize her cachet; it has as much esprit as a diorama.
In Belle Époque Paris, aging courtesan Léa (a simpering Michelle Pfeiffer) falls in love with Chéri (a cadaverous Rupert Friend), the son of Léa's friend and rival Charlotte (Kathy Bates) and a roué half her age. He's infantile and she's maternal, but their bliss is cut short when Chéri marries a younger woman with more money.
Apart from the tone-deaf casting and a stuffy male narrator (definitely not Colette), Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (not to mention Pfeiffer) fail to recapture the arch and melancholy tone of their Dangerous Liaisons. Only at the end do they touch on the real tragedy, which is not Léa growing older, but Chéri.