by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Name the film I'm thinking of.

It's a period film starring Michelle Pfeiffer, written by Christopher Hampton from a vintage French novel, and directed by Stephen Frears, in which two scheming French seducers wile away their dotage manipulating the lives of youngsters. Personal tragedy ensues when one of the calculating puppet-masters falls in love with one of the innocents, a love which is prevented by the machinations of the other sophisticate.

What's that? You guess Dangerous Liaisons?


Wrong. Not the one I was thinking of. Hey, you should have known because I'm supposed to be writing about Cheri, which was adapted from two stories by Colette, "Cheri" and "The Last of Cheri." It's like Dangerous Liaisons 2: the Wrath of Valmont. And it's not up to the usual standard of Stephen Frears.

Starting with Dangerous Liaisons, Frears has created several excellent films:

  1. (7.60) - The Queen (2006)
  2. (7.60) - Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
  3. (7.60) - High Fidelity (2000)
  4. (7.50) - Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
  5. (7.10) - Mrs Henderson Presents (2005)
  6. (7.00) - Liam (2000)
  7. (7.00) - The Grifters (1990)

But there has been one noticeable failure in his recent filmography: a film called Mary Reilly, rated 5.5 at IMDb, which also was scripted by Christopher Hampton. Perhaps that was a bad omen for Cheri. Not only does this film feel like a Dangerous Liaisons copycat, albeit placed a century later, but it also suffers from a script which includes very little forward motion and in which the most interesting things occur off-camera and/or are recited to us by the omniscient narrator. Frears and Hampton both have tendencies toward the prolix, but in this case, the script is all yakking with no visual payoff, as both author and director seem to have forgotten that film narrative is visual and not something to be followed with our eyes closed as if we were listening to a book-on-tape. Even the film's tragic final surprise is simply narrated to us matter-of-factly. Imagine if Star Wars had ended with the rebels sailing through space toward the death star while a narrator told us "Oh, yeah, they won, destroyed the death star. Got some medals. It was pretty cool. Too bad you couldn't have seen it." This film has that kind of ending. It's not anti-climactic, but pre-climactic!

And frankly, for a film about sex and prostitutes, it is excessively delicate in its sensibilities. For example, the film has several sex scenes or potential sex scenes, but they are all castrated by editing and lighting. Either we are forced to watch two barely discernable shapes rolling around in stygian darkness, or the camera cuts away discreetly, just as it becomes apparent that sex is about to occur. If you didn't recognize the actors, you might think this film had been made in 1939.

On the other hand, 1939 was a good year. The lavish Victor Fleming style of filmmaking had its advantages. When Frears is not focused on the plot, the visuals are splendid. There are old-time motorcars being driven through a beautiful French countryside by handsome men and women in gorgeous costumes, as photographed by helicopters. There are impeccably decorated Belle Epoque interiors and the lush, manicured gardens of stately mansions.

The film can also count among its positives the radiance of Michelle Pfeiffer, a beauty which stands virtually alone in modern screen history. She has a face as beautiful or more beautiful than Jolie's or Megan Fox's, with none of their aloofness, eccentricity, or insouciance. Pfeiffer is beautiful, yet also obviously normal and approachable, with compassionate, expressive eyes. There are very few 50+ women who could fit believably into this role as the lust object of a 25-year-old man, but Pfeiffer is utterly convincing in that capacity. Her body is as slim and narrow as a teenager's. Her chin hasn't the slightest sag. She has only the faintest hint of crow's feet. She is still beautiful, not qualified by "for a woman of 50," but just plain beautiful.

So Cheri is not without merit. Prepare to be dazzled by elegance.

But, lord-a-mercy, is this film dull and talky!

DVD Blu-Ray


3.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
3 James Berardinelli  (of 5 stars)
54 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
63 (of 100)





6.4 IMDB summary (of 10)





Box Office Mojo. It never reached as many as 200 theaters and still managed to gross $2.7 million.





  • The only clear female nudity is a topless extra in the dark.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Nice production values but, as Joanne Worley might have said, "Bor-ing!"