Earlier this week, I went to a Women And Hollywood screening of Chéri and afterward, there was a panel discussion about cougars, roles for "older" actresses, and why Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Pfeiffer has to compete with Megan Fox.
Chéri's plot revolves around Lea, a courtesan "of a certain age." She's on the verge of retiring when she strikes up a relationship with her friend's 19-year-old son, Chéri.
French novelist Colette, who published Chéri in 1920, had feminist leanings — and an affair with her stepson. And it's interesting that about 90 years later, our society is still tittering about older woman/younger man love connections.
At the panel, Thelma Adams of Us Weekly, Linda Franklin of therealcougarwoman.com and Joni Evans from wowOwow.com talked about our society's obsession with youth — and for women to look, act and feel young. Adams admitted that between Megan Fox and Michelle Pfeiffer, her editors would choose Fox first, to cover — though there a review of Chéri will appear in the magazine. Franklin was all for "taking back" the word cougar, while Evans wondered why it had to be animalistic and predatory, and wondered if we couldn't come up with something better. Of course, this is not a movie about cougars. It's about one woman and one man falling in love, and their age is not something they discuss while doing so; which seems fairly realistic. But all the panelists agreed that while people struggle to describe or label 50-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer on screen in a love scene with 27-year-old Rupert Friend, the reverse situation — older man with younger woman? Is called "life."
Here's what the reviewers are saying:
If there is an art-house programmer out there who's looking for a double feature, book Woody Allen's latest - Whatever Works, in which Larry David hooks up with a 19-year-old girl - right before Chéri and leave the theater open afterward for a debate on men, women and aging. Sparks should fly.
[Director] Frears (The Queen) returns to the naughty folderol of his Dangerous Liaisons with this decadent comedy of manners. While the humor has its droll moments, the dialogue is more vapid than clever. Cheri, like the character, is an entertaining bauble without much on its mind.
Though the film cannot rightly be characterized as soft - the cruel, often funny verbal barbs invest it with pleasurable prickliness - there's a certain reserve, even hesitancy to his direction that in part may have something to do with the conundrum presented by Ms. Pfeiffer's casting.
Chéri opens in theaters today