It's such a pleasure to watch Michelle Pfeiffer hold the screen in a way she hasn't for far too long that one can almost forgive Cheri its flaws. Almost.
Based on novels by Colette, Cheri reunites Pfeiffer with director Stephen Frears and writer Christopher Hampton, with whom she worked on Dangerous Liaisons two decades ago. The story is set 150 years later, but the subject is the same: love, lust and the manipulation of both in the name of personal power.
Pfeiffer plays Lea de Lonval, a rich, aging Paris courtesan during La Belle Epoque. Enriched by past lovers, she agrees to take the son of a friend -- another wealthy courtesan (Kathy Bates) -- to the south of France to get him away from bad influences in Paris.
The boy, known as Cheri (Rupert Friend), is only 19, though he's already developed a reputation as a hard-living roué whose sad eyes and floppy hair make him irresistible to women. Though Lea has known him practically since he was born, she finds herself amused at the prospect of a fling with the youth.
The fling turns into a six-year affair -- one that comes to an abrupt end when Cheri's conniving mother arranges a rich marriage to a rival's daughter.
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