MY BEST FRIEND (MON MEILLEUR AMI) (Patrice Leconte). 94 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (July 27) at the Varsity. See Times, see 108. Rating: NNNN
There's an odd mix of kindness and cruelty and an unsettling meditation on the nature of friendship under this movie's warm-hearted, light comedy surface.
To win a bet and reclaim some respect in his social circle, François (Daniel Auteuil), a Parisian antiques dealer, sets out to prove that he has at least one real friend. His desperation leads him to Bruno (Dany Boon), a cab driver whose gregariousness masks his deep loneliness.
For a while in the middle, we think we know exactly where this is going, but writer/director Patrice Leconte and co-writer Jérôme Tonnerre have woven a couple of good surprises into their graceful and very tightly constructed script.
Leconte, a 37-year veteran best known for The Hairdresser's Husband (1990) and Monsieur Hire (1989), keeps the pace lively and does a great job of conveying loneliness in frames crowded with people socializing.
But Leconte's prime tools are the faces of his actors. Auteuil's François lets his anxiety play when he needs to but keeps his arrogance well hidden. It's only by his actions that we know him. Boon has the affable sincerity of a Jimmy Stewart, apparently wearing his heart on his sleeve, which gives him more than one powerful moment. Individually, they're highly watchable. Together, they play beautifully.