The Three Tomatoes were invited to a screening this week of ChÃ©ri, a new movie that opens on Friday, directed by Steven Frears (The Queen), and starring Michelle Pfeiffer in her first major film in five years. ChÃ©ri (based on two novels by French writer Collette) is the story of a six-year affair and it’s aftermath between an aging French courtesan, Lea (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is 49 when her affair starts with a beautiful young man, ChÃ©ri (Rupert Friend) who is 19. The screening was followed by a panel discussion led by Melissa Silverstein, womenandhollywood.com, Thelma Adams, US Magazine, Linda Franklin, realcougarwoman.com, and Joni Evans from wowOwow.com. Frankly, it was a conversation that was too long on “cougars” and too short on why it’s so difficult to get Hollywood to make movies like ChÃ©ri that will appeal to older female movie goers and that star actresses over 50. Linda Franklin wants to turn the word cougar into a positive term about strong woman. Joni Evans suggests we come up with a new name. Here’s what The Three Tomatoes think.
Why do women need to label things? ChÃ©ri is a beautiful movie. Michelle Pfeiffer is gorgeous at any age. It’s erotic and sensual from a female perspective, which we think is the real story here. Women of all ages will love it. A lot of guys will too. So please, let’s not denigrate this movie by labeling it, whether it’s the cougar, feminist, or ageism label. And by the way, we think the reason Michelle isn’t being promoted on the covers of the entertainment weeklies, has little to do with her age, but the fact that she’s not controversial. Her personal life is just that, personal and seemingly normal. That doesn’t sell magazines these days.
ChÃ©ri is first and foremost a story of ill-fated love. And it’s a story about a beautiful woman who finally opens herself up to love and vulnerability and is fearful of losing her youth and beauty. Set in France at the turn of the century, ChÃ©ri is one of the most beautifully filmed movies we have seen in a long time. It’s filmed in luscious countryside and seaside locations, takes you in and out of French manor homes, and the incredibly beautiful period costumes will take your breath away. But what will really leave you breathless are the sensuous and erotic love scenes that are not at all graphic, and mostly show only glimpses of bare skin, except for a somewhat gratuitous (but we thank you anyway) buck naked backside shot of the young ChÃ©ri. What makes the love scenes hot, hot, hot is that finally, someone has captured erotica from a woman’s perspective. Actually everything about the movie is sensuous, from exotic gardens to panoramic seascapes, and glorious boudoirs. Michelle is stunningly beautiful, even in a scene where her young lover grasps, for the first time, that she is aging. Rupert Friend, who plays the young male lover, rivals Michelle’s beauty in a feminine way, but has a sexuality that transcends gender. And Kathy Bates, who plays his mother, a former courtesan, is terrific. But then again, we’ve never seen Kathy Bates in any role where she isn’t terrific.
There are places in the movie where it drags a bit (a little too long on glances) and at times the score overpowers the movie, but all in all we give it a three out of a Three Tomatoes rating. And yes, we do think it’s important that women buy tickets to see this movie. Hopefully that will send a message to Hollywood execs who think that women’s movies, especially with actresses over 40 as the stars, are not bankable. So take that to bank.
Republished with permission from The Three Tomatoes.