Movie Review: Priceless/Hors de Prix

If one is tasked with writing a speech or some sort of formal presentation each week to the same group of people, one often finds oneself looking for ways of conveying things in a way that will keep people’s attention.  One also tends to drift into the third person voice, which more than one finds annoying.

And so it was that I found myself yesterday with my sermon done early.  As in early-afternoon early.  It wasn’t a great sermon, but these things happen.  As I try to reassure my peers, there are times when it just doesn’t seem great.  This doesn’t mean that it won’t be great to someone.  And it’s not something that we should ever take too lightly.  But sometimes it happens.  And for many, many, many, many reasons, that’s where I sat yesterday afternoon when I typed Amen and shut down the laptop.

Which led to an enjoyable unexpected afternoon with the family.  And it meant that I could spend the evening with my wife, rather than hunched over any number of commentaries and translation helps.  Since the movie we had intended to rent was out of stock, and we didn’t have any new Netflix selections yet, we rented a movie with little to go on.  We rented Priceless, a French film in English subtitles, which in France goes by the name Hors de Prix

I think we settled on this film because it stars Audrey Tatou, who we enjoyed in the quirky film Amelie a few years ago. 

Priceless is not a good movie.  It relies on a tired plot line and offers little to the mix.  Love across social and economic divides, mistaken identities…all these are pretty standard cinematic faire, and this film doesn’t do anything to spice it up.  Except for having Ms. Tatou parade around in a progression of eye-poppingly skimpy outfits.  Fortunately, she’s very easy on the eyes.  Tragically, it doesn’t compensate for an hour and a half of otherwise mediocre movie.  Gad Elmaleh is the initially hapless suitor in this film, and he’s far more believable early on as the naive young man than he is by the end of the film in a more confident role of manipulator and suitor. 

It’s a forgettable movie in most every respect.  Unless of course, there’s the possibility of scrapping a sermon that is already done and starting from scratch using a lame movie as the entry point.  Which is, for better or worse, what happened.  Because as bad as this film is, it’s a frighteningly stark retelling (in my opinion) of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man in Mark 10, which was the Gospel lesson for today.

Tatou is the beautiful young woman, as opposed to a rich young man.  But while she thrives in the jet-set and enjoys a life of leisure, all is not as picture-perfect as one might suspect.  She isn’t rich at all.  She accesses the wealth of older men who enjoy being seen with a beautiful younger woman, and are willing to shower her with expensive gifts to maintain her company.  She’s essentially a very pricey prostitute.  But her goal is to become legitimate – to marry one of these older men and be set for life.  She has access to money, but it was neither hers to begin with, nor will it be hers on her deathbed – at least not until she can convince one of these men to marry her.  Time is running out.

She meets Elmaleh’s character, who has nothing to offer her according to the standards of her world.  He has no money.  No influence, no power, no prospects, nothing.  But he has sincerity.  He has devotion.  And, in the manner of movies, he can fall totally, insanely in love with her in a single night.  She finds this devotion, this love compelling, and they begin to orbit one another.

But we all know that in these sorts of movies, there comes a moment of truth.  A moment where a decision has  to be made, and that decision will determine the future.  Tatou’s Irene must decide between the financial security she has been doggedly pursuing for years, or the authentic love and appreciation of Elmaleh’s hapless Jean.  I don’t think it’s possible to ruin a movie like this, because the ending is pretty much a foregone conclusion. 

As the viewer, even a discerning viewer, we want this moment of confrontation.  We want this wrestling of the soul.  We want to see the protagonist placed in the position of having to choose.  We may know it’s coming, and we may know what the outcome has to be.  But the act of watching how it plays out is very satisfying, emotionally cathartic, as it were.  We want them to make the right choice.  To give up money and security and all of that, and to choose love.  Wild, unpredictable, poorly screen written love.  Ride off into the sunset on a horse or a scooter or a sauropod – whatever.  Just make the predictable but nonetheless giddy choice for love.

Because we can’t. 

In a thousand little ways each day and each week, we choose security, we choose comfort, we choose predictability over the wildly unpredictable possibilities of love.  What if we got to know our next door neighbor?  What if we stopped and offered to buy that woman on the corner with the sign lunch?  What if we were willing to serve in a soup kitchen?  What if we weren’t paranoid about whether or not are child is living up to their full potential – as defined by our neighbors or the television?  What if we weren’t so worried about paying next month’s bills, and could just give thanks for the roof over our head tonight? 

We can’t choose love and the wildly unpredictable life.  Jesus says so himself.  With man, this is impossible.  We’re too prone to being shaped by our environment, to prone to peer pressure and advertising and news that breeds fear.  We’re too anxious and fearful without giving up the little security and predictability we do have.  It’s not possible to choose the wild, unpredictable, giddiness of love. 

We like to chastise the rich young man in the Gospel lesson.  But every day, every week, over and over again, we make the exact same choice that he did.  We go away disappointed.  We turn aside from that prompting.  We convince ourselves that it isn’t practical, that we don’t have time, that we have other things that need to get done.  And that moment where the Spirit of God is tugging on our sleeve trying to get us to go this way, to do this, to choose that – we walk away.  We keep driving when the light turns green.  We can’t bring ourselves to do it. 

Jesus holds out hope, though.  With God, all things are possible.  What we could never do on our own, God can give us the strength to do.  The decision that fills us with too much fear, with the Spirit of God we can find a peace even in the midst of uncertainty, of unpredictability.

It was a really lousy film.  But it seemed to be a very real retelling of the mechanics in that account that Mark wrote about almost 2000 years ago.  That same struggle between comfort and predictability and security, and the willingness to follow where ever we are led.  This movie showed that the rich young man is not an anomaly.  He’s Everyman.  Everywoman.  You.  Me. 

So I give thanks to God, not because I’m good.  Because I’m not.  But I give thanks that in those rare moments when I’m able to be good, when I’m able to make the right decision, when I’m able to take that teetering step of faith, it’s because of my Creator’s Spirit at work inside of me.  Giving me the strength and t
he will that I’d never have on my own.  And I pray that each day, if nothing else, it takes me longer to turn away than it did the day before.  That someday, I might not turn away.  But I might smile back at my Savior’s offer.  That I might leave behind the security that I so often opt for, and walk into the sunset with Him. 

It would probably make a really cheesy movie.  And I don’t look anything near as good as Audrey Tatou.  But it’s still my goal, all the same.

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Priceless/Hors de Prix”

  1. photorele Says:

    Poor Japan(

  2. kinodeitalia Says:

    Where to invest?

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