The French writer Colette, born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873 - 1954), lived one of those witty, charming lives you've read about, doing things like performing at the Moulin Rouge and having affairs with Josephine Baker, while marrying several rich husbands. She wrote, among many other things, what would become the famous musical Gigi, which Director Vincente Minnelli turned into a dull, immobile Oscar-winning hit in 1958. The English film director Stephen Frears would have been 13 when Colette died, though at that age, he had most likely never heard of her. But now, 55 years later, the two have teamed up for the new movie Cheri, based on Collete's 1920 novel about a passionate affair between an aging courtesan and a spoiled younger man.
Frears seems like the right man for the job. After all, his similarly sexy costume drama Dangerous Liaisons (1988) was another Oscar-winning hit. And in his Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) he dealt with issues of sexuality and censorship on the stage, so he seems prepped to make something really sexy and full of wit and charm, especially given that he's re-teamed with his Dangerous Liaisons star Michelle Pfeiffer. It's a win-win scenario that quickly turns lose-lose. For some reason, Cheri is dead on arrival, a cold fish. It just lies there, too lethargic to be funny and too timid to be sexy, but not deep enough for any real drama.