Chéri (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Cheri ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Frears
Screenplay byChristopher Hampton
Based onChéri
by Colette
Produced by
CinematographyDarius Khondji
Edited byLucia Zucchetti
Music byAlexandre Desplat
Distributed by
Release date
  • 10 February 2009 (2009-02-10) (Berlinale)
  • 8 April 2009 (2009-04-08) (France)
  • 8 May 2009 (2009-05-08) (United Kingdom)
  • 27 August 2009 (2009-08-27) (Germany)
Running time
92 minutes
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
Budget$23 million
Box office$9.3 million[1]

Chéri is a 2009 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears from a screenplay by Christopher Hampton, based on the 1920 novel of the same name by French author Colette. It stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend. The film premiered at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival.[2]


Set in 1900s Belle Époque Paris, Chéri tells the story of an affair between a wealthy, middle-aged retired courtesan, Léa, and Fred, nicknamed Cheri ("Dear" or "Darling"), the flamboyant spoiled, neglected 19-year-old only son of another even wealthier courtesan. A famous beauty, Léa has been successful at extracting large sums of money from her up-scale clients, never falling in love with any of them.

At first Léa takes Chéri off her "friend" (and former rival) Charlotte's hands as a favor, as his dissipated lifestyle is irritating to Charlotte and unhealthy for Chéri. Although Léa only plans on keeping Chéri around for a short while, their affair turns into a six-year relationship, in which Léa pays for Chéri's expenses, (although he has access to considerable wealth from his mother) and Chéri wears Léa's silk pajamas and pearls. Although they satisfy each other both sexually and emotionally, the two convince themselves that their affair is casual, but they are the only real friend the other has. Her status as a former prostitute and his as the son of one make them outsiders who can only be fully honest and relaxed together.

Léa learns Chéri's mother has arranged for Chéri to marry the daughter of another courtesan, an innocent barely 18-year-old named Edmée, as Charlotte has decided she wants grandchildren, largely to make up for her years of neglecting Chéri. Although Chéri does not wish to marry Edmée, whom he finds boring, he has no choice in the matter, as he stands to inherit a huge fortune from Charlotte. Léa cheerfully kicks him out of her home, but makes Chéri promise to always be gentle and kind with Edmée, and to try to give her a good life. After Chéri agrees, the two part ways, both putting on an air of breezy unconcern, as much to convince themselves as the rest of the world that their affair had just been for amusement.

Léa does not attend the wedding, and Chéri and Edmée leave for their honeymoon. It is only after Chéri is on the train to Italy for his honeymoon that both he and Léa realise they are in love with each other. Chéri consummates his marriage with Edmée, but their lovemaking is perfunctory, and even though Edmée is in love with her husband, Chéri can't summon any emotion for her. Léa visits Charlotte one last time before running off on vacation, making up a story in which she is involved with another suitor, when in fact the only man Léa beds while on vacation is a young bodybuilder whom she has no feelings for and regards as a one-night stand.

Meanwhile, Edmée accuses Chéri of not caring about her, and says all he ever does is think of Léa, "that old woman". While out on the town with a friend, Chéri tries opium and cocaine, and on his way back he notices that Léa's apartment is no longer empty and she has returned home. Comforted by the fact that Léa has returned, Chéri runs home to Edmée where he makes love to her properly and kindly, thinking that he can now live in peace with Edmée, juggling both women. He sends Charlotte the next day to investigate Léa's homelife, whereupon Léa claims she is madly in love with her new "suitor", and Charlotte tells her that Chéri and Edmée are likewise madly in love and happier than ever. That night, jealous and wanting to confront Léa about her new suitor, Chéri breaks into her home and admits he loves her. They make love with all the pent up passion they have been suppressing for the sake of others, and plan on running away together.

In the morning, however, Chéri notices the wrinkles on Léa's face in the harsh light of day, and she sees his doubt. She apologizes to Chéri for "ruining him" and making life too easy on him when they first began their affair. Léa tells Chéri to go back to Edmée, for their age difference would always prevent a true relationship blossoming between them. Tentatively, Chéri leaves as Léa watches, breathlessly hoping he will turn back. Both crestfallen and elated by a new sense of freedom, he walks on, as Léa stares into her mirror at her aging face.

The narrator reflects on the injustice of fate, that Léa was born two decades before her only true love, Chéri. The narrator also reveals that, while he went through World War 1 without a scratch, Chéri later realises that Léa was the only woman he could ever love, and he commits suicide.



The film was released theatrically in France on 8 April 2009 by Pathé Distribution and in the United Kingdom on 8 May 2009 by Pathé's distribution partner Warner Bros. Entertainment UK, and was the first film released under the then-recent theatrical distribution deal between the two companies.[3]

The film was released on DVD in the UK on 21 September 2009 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. As of 2021, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is currently re-releasing Pathé's film library in the UK.


Chéri was selected for the Berlin Film Festival official competition.[4]

The movie got mixed reviews: The Times of London reviewed the film favourably, describing Hampton's screenplay as a "steady flow of dry quips and acerbic one-liners" and Pfeiffer's performance as "magnetic and subtle, her worldly nonchalance a mask for vulnerability and heartache."[5]

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that it was "fascinating to observe how Pfeiffer controls her face and voice during times of painful hurt."[6]

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times praised the "wordless scenes that catch Léa unawares, with the camera alone seeing the despair and regret that she hides from the world. It's the kind of refined, delicate acting Pfeiffer does so well, and it's a further reminder of how much we've missed her since she's been away."[7]

At Rotten Tomatoes it has a 54% or 'Rotten' rating. Much of the criticism centres on its weak script and poorly executed romance scenes.[8]

At Metacritic, it received "generally favorable reviews" based on 27 critic reviews.[9]


  1. ^ "Cheri (2009)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ Ed Meza (15 January 2009). "Berlin festival adds to main section". Variety. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Chéri (2009) – Awards". IMDb.
  5. ^ Dalton, Stephen (11 February 2009). "Chéri review". Times. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (24 June 2009). "Chéri review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 6 August 2009.
  7. ^ Turan, Kenneth (26 June 2009). "Chéri review". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Chéri Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Chéri Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2010.

External links[edit]