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Originally published Friday, April 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Priceless" | Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh star in French comedy

Irène (Audrey Tautou), her pink lips fetchingly pursed, is giving a lesson on how to be a golddigger. The silent and distant act is...

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3.5 stars

"Priceless," with Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtcheff. Directed by Pierre Salvadori, from a screenplay by Salvadori and Benoît Graffin. 101 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content including nudity. In French with English subtitles. Guild 45th, Uptown.

Irène (Audrey Tautou), her pink lips fetchingly pursed, is giving a lesson on how to be a golddigger. The silent and distant act is effective, she says, in a voice both piping and breathy. Plus, "Unfinished sentences work well"; for example, "I would love ... " "I would like ... " Such phrases work nicely in getting her a tidy stream of lobster dinners, fancy hotel suites and Chanel gowns.

Her pupil, the would-be gigolo Jean (Gad Elmaleh, of "The Valet"), listens carefully. Soon, he's showing off a pricey watch. When Irène wonders how he got it, Jean smiles. "I sulked," he says.

Pierre Salvadori's delightful comedy, picturesquely set in a series of posh hotels on the French Riviera, throws together two terrific comic actors and an irresistible premise: How much merchandise can they amass before they're dumped — or before they fall in love with each other?

Elmaleh, whose sad, heavy-lidded eyes have the goofily yearning quality of the young Nicolas Cage, makes a fine foil for the ever-sparkling Tautou: She bubbles, he sighs. In true romantic-comedy fashion, they meet under a deception — she thinks he's a rich guest of the hotel, whereas he's actually a bumbling employee — and eventually become conspirators, with her tutoring him about how to enjoy the good life.

Choking down a spoonful of caviar, Irène cheerfully announces that she actually hates it, but she's teaching herself to appreciate it. "I'm sure when you like it," she says, exuding not-so-innocent hope, "it must be delicious."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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