Catherine, refuses to believe that her business partner, the unlikeable François, has a best friend, so she challenges him to set up an introduction. Scrambling to find someone willing to pose as his best pal, François enlists the services of a charming taxi driver to play the part.
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A French public servant from Provence is banished to the far North. Strongly prejudiced against this cold and inhospitable place, he leaves his family behind to relocate temporarily there, with the firm intent to quickly come back.
François is a middle-aged antique dealer. He has a stylish apartment and a fabulous life, but at a dinner with a group he considers his dearest acquaintances, he is blindsided by the revelation that none of them actually likes him. He's arrogant, self-centered and harsh, and they don't believe he knows the meaning of friendship. His business partner Catherine makes him a bet: if he can produce his best friend, she will let him keep the massive Greek vase he acquired that afternoon on the company tab. If not, it's hers. Having accepted the wager, François naively tears through his address book, trying to shoehorn an increasingly unlikely series of contacts into the all-important role. Moving through Paris, he keeps encountering a trivia-spouting, big-hearted cabbie named Bruno. Bruno's chatty, lowbrow ways grate against François's designer temperament, but he covets the other man's easy way with people. He convinces Bruno to teach him how to make friends and sets about learning the "...Written by
MON MEILLEUR AMI (MY BEST FRIEND) is a gift from France to movie lovers. Though it can be considered a 'comedy' in the French tradition, it is also a fine examination of the importance of friendship in a world too cluttered with 'acquaintances' passing as friends. Just what a 'friend' means is only one important message of this lovely film: the manner through which we identify meaningful relationships is the other.
Writer/Director Patrice Laconte (Intimate Strangers, The Man on the Train, The Widow of Saint-Pierre, The Girl on the Bridge, Tango, The Hairdresser's Husband, Monsieur Hire, etc) knows how to take an idea and allow it to blossom without distortion or preaching. He understands the intimacy of friendships and knows how to draw superlative performances from his actors - an obvious extension of the concept of friendship! François Coste (Daniel Auteuil) is an antiquities dealer with his lesbian partner Catherine (Julie Gayet), and while François is a successful businessman, he is a self-centered isolationist who has never been able to make or retain friends, a fact that is put before him at the scantily attended funeral of an associate. François and Catherine attend an auction where François pays a high price for an antique Greek vase, a receptacle for the tears of an ancient man's friend. This purchases encourages Catherine to challenge François to a bet: François must introduce to Catherine a 'best friend' within ten days or the vase belongs to her. François, oblivious to the fact that he is completely without friends (including his own daughter Louise - Julie Durand), accepts the challenge and so the search for friends begins. François exhausts his possibilities, all the while being driven about Paris by a loquacious taxi driver 'Balanchine'/Bruno Bouley (Dany Boon) who has his own problems: he has worked all his life to prepare for a fact-answering position on a television game show, but suffers from a severe case of nerves when before a crowd. Very gradually the two men bond and François realizes Bruno is the closest thing he has to a friend. A plan is hatched which will apparently benefit both men's weaknesses, but as life often does, surprises alter the plans. How the film ends is so tender that sharing it would destroy the fluid progression of Leconte's storytelling.
Both Auteuil and Boon are superb in the leading roles and yet every minor role is in the hands of the cream of France's crop of supporting actors. The pacing of the film, the cinematography, the musical score, and the script are perfectly melded. Yet it is the magic hand of Patrice Laconte that makes this movie understated and wholly credible, allowing the audience to relate to the sensitive weaknesses of the two men and grow into their tenuous relationship. It is a joy to watch and remember. Grady Harp
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