Samuel Goldwyn Films
Irene Mercier (Audrey Tautou) charms the men in "Priceless."
PRICELESS (HORS DE PRIX) — ** 1/2 — Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh; in French, with English subtitles; rated PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, brief sex, brief partial nudity, slurs)

Adorable French actress Audrey Tautou has so much charm that we want to like her and the character she's playing at all times.

However, that's considerably more difficult when she's not playing someone like the effervescent title character of 2001's "Amelie" and when she is playing someone like a conniving gold digger, as she does in the French romantic farce "Priceless (Hors de Prix)."

Still, she makes that character surprisingly likable and endearing, and, together with her cast mates, she makes this sometimes creaky, comic creation work better than it should.

She plays Irene Mercier, a scheming and rather manipulative young woman who dates older men so she can take advantage of their riches ... er, generosity.

Irene latest "catch" is Jacques (Vernon Dobtcheff), who's taken her on a vacation at a luxury hotel in the French Riviera. That same hotel is where she runs into Jean Simon (Gad Elmaleh), one of the employees.

When Irene meets the young bartender, he's wearing a tuxedo, so she mistakes him for one of the wealthy hotel guests. The two have a drunken, one-night fling and go their separate ways.

However, the two keep meeting up and "re-acquainting" themselves. That is, until Irene discovers that Jean is nearly penniless and pretty much dumps him on the spot.

Once that happens, the broken-hearted and nearly broke Jean begins playing the same cold-hearted "game" by trying to seduce the wealthy Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam).

This movie (which was co-written and directed by Pierre Salvadori) does share some similarities with the 1988 movie comedy and Broadway hit "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

It doesn't have nearly as many big laughs as either of them, but it does feature a couple of chuckles.

For one thing, Elmaleh ("The Valet") looks like sort of a Gallic version of Nicolas Cage, so it's hard to believe that Tautou's drop-dead-gorgeous Irene might be infatuated with him.

"Priceless (Hors de Prix)" is rated PG-13 for occasional profanity and sexually suggestive language (references and innuendo), brief sex and other sexual contact (mostly implied), brief partial female nudity, and some derogatory language and slurs. Running time: 101 minutes.

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