The latest incoming shipment in the modest import business of innocuously predictable French screen farces, Patrice Leconte’s My Best Friend caters to that conservative audience who seek shelter under the implicit sophistication of subtitles, and who are still not acclimated to the blithe transgression that’s become the standard in American screen comedy. But Leconte’s inconsequential distraction is another sort of offense, displaying a total dearth of invention, relying only on its air of toothless benevolence. If you take your comedy seriously, the stateside arrival of My Best Friend is news every bit as devastating as the eleventh-hour renewal of According to Jim.
Daniel Auteuil, of course, stars as Francois Coste, a crabbed, self-centered antique dealer so universally disliked that his business partner feels confident in daring him to produce evidence of having a single friend within ten days’ time—this, the film’s already incredulous setup, comes during a bizarre dinner scene in which a full table of professional acquaintances abruptly gang up on our protagonist, publicly eviscerating him for his faulty personality. Here My Best Friend establishes a precedent of overstepping the bounds of credible character and situation without offering any comic payoff to excuse the transgression; the scene is utterly unbelievable, but the hyperbole isn’t sufficiently accented to invite laughter, and such bullying invites easy audience sympathy for Francois, rather than requiring that he earns it. Click here to read the rest of Nick Pinkerton’s review of My Best Friend.