Multiple Oscar nominee Stephen Frears is a tough nut to crack. Amiable but terse, his excellent multilayered films do the talking for him, from his first collaboration with Christopher Hampton and Michelle Pfeiffer on 1998's Dangerous Liaisons to 2007's The Queen. In his latest film, Cheri (read Cinematical's review here), Frears turns his lens onto the cloistered and often duplicitous world of wealthy courtesans. Frears' films often focus on subversive outsiders who must make their own "family," as it were, such as Dirty Pretty Things, The Grifters, and My Beautiful Laundrette. But Cheri's delicious spin on sex, love, and aging is typical of its source material from author Colette, whose books Cheri and The Last of Cheri present a world of upside-down relationships and self-sufficient, frankly sexual women.

Michelle Pfeiffer leads the cast as the stunning Lea de Lonval, a famous courtesan whose friend Madame Peloux, played with busty abandon by Kathy Bates, encourages Lea to have an affair with Peloux's louche son Cheri, the pale and effeminate Rupert Friend. Neglected as a child while his mother was dealing with her affairs, Cheri is hardly likeable or loveable, but somehow their affair becomes less about sex and more about the love both he and Lea have lacked in their lives. Peloux throws a wrench into the whole thing when she plans a wedding for Cheri to another courtesan's child, Edmee, played by newcomer Felicity Jones. What happens after that surprises them all.

Cheri opens June 26th in limited cities. Visit the official website for more information.

What's the difference between releasing a movie like Cheri during Oscar season as opposed to the summer blockbuster season? Is it more or less stressful?

Stephen Frears: The problem with competing for the Oscars is it's very tough, so in a way it's quite a relief being [released] at another time of the year. You're all right if you've got the one that gets everybody's attention, but fighting for attention is quite difficult. I've released films in that season that have been just overlooked.