Cheri is a totally engaging, beautifully done, seductive and tragic love story. It is the story of Léa De Lonval, a famous Parisian courtesan played by Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Minds, What Lies Beneath, Dangerous Liaisons, Wolf and so many more), and Chéri, a 19-year-old young man played by British actor Rupert Friend. This provocative story is eloquently directed by Stephen Frears, writer/director of Dangerous Liaisons. The mystique and beauty of the costumes and the sets are a must-see in their own right.
What began as a favor to Chéri's mother, Charlotte Peloux (Kathy Bates, Misery), a fellow courtesan (a rival in their heyday) and maybe a chance to relieve a brewing boredom, Lea agrees to provide a few weeks tutoring to Chéri in the ways of women, which turned into an amazing six-year love affair.
Léa, a spirited and very independent woman, is now approaching her retirement. She is facing the inevitability of aging after a lifetime of depending wholly on her sexual prowess, amazing beauty, disarming personality, and wit to get anything she wanted and needed. She had been highly sought after in her day and even now can still conjure up a lover at will. Léa, still beautiful at 49, does not relish the prospects of her new station despite having amassed enough wealth to take care of herself very well indeed in her retirement.
The movie is set in the aftermath of the height of the "Beautiful Era" or Belle Époque in Paris – also referred to as the golden age of the the upper class or demi-monde in France prior to World War I. During the Belle Époque, these highly desired and compensated courtesans where at their pinnacle. They exercised their beauty, their intelligence and expertise in conversation and sexuality to to gain unbelievable power and wealth among the bored elite of the day. These women had sharp business skills and managed their money very well — they had the highest incomes known to women of their day.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lea is — as you would expect her to be — exceedingly beautiful, sultry, disarming, quick-witted, engaging, with an air of honesty in her disposition, and totally lovable. Pfeiffer is an amazing talent.
Cheri — what can one say about Cheri? He is a handsome, spoiled young man; petulant, naughty, aloof, mysterious, and totally intriguing to Lea, who feels these qualities are completely unique for a man. Rupert Friend was the perfect choice for this part.
Kathy Bates as Cheri's mother is the woman you want to love to hate, but somehow can't quite do it, even though she's always butting into everyone's business and is a terrible gossip. This is a movie where the time goes by so fast, you don't even realize it's over till it's too late, and you are slapped in the face with the ending.
Cheri is rated R as expected due to the subject matter including nudity, adult sexual content, and situations — definitely for mature audiences.
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