MOVIE REVIEW- Garcon! Le petit déjeuner at Tiffany's

a still from this week's filmIf Priceless ("Hors de prix") makes Truman Capote turn over in his grave, chances are he'll be rolling with laughter. It's a virtual French remake of Breakfast at Tiffany's, with just enough differences to avoid legal action but enough similarities– including an Audrey the world loves in the lead– to appeal to the same audience.

Steve WarrenIrène goes down to the hotel bar by herself and there finds Jean (Gad Elmaleh) napping. (Actually he's passed out drunk too, but young enough to be revivable.)

What Irène doesn't know– but we do– is that Jean is a hotel employee. He walks the dogs of their terminally wealthy guests, carries bags, tends bar– no job is too menial. He looks better than her usual guys and appears to be just as rich, so Irène spends the night with him in the hotel's best suite.

She leaves with Jacques in the morning, but when they return a year later, Irène and Jean hook up again. This time they get caught. He loses his job, and she loses her meal ticket. Jean follows Irène to Nice where it doesn't take her long to run through all his savings.

Of course Irène finds a new man, Gilles (Jacques Spiesser), quickly. The surprise is that fate intervenes on Jean's behalf with the arrival of Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam, a Lauren Bacall type), a wealthy older woman in need of a male companion.

The younger lovers keep running into each other, accidentally or intentionally, and Irène coaches Jean in the fine points of his new profession, the world's oldest. They try to deny their attraction to each other because they can't afford to acknowledge it, but this is a movie, so they can't hold out forever. It's just a question of how many other people they have to go through to get to each other.

Although Priceless has been written about as Tautou's "bad girl" role, she makes the gold-digger likable, if not admirable. Besides, even if the PG-13 rating spares us the details, we know she works hard for the money. Elmaleh, being seen for the first time by most Americans, has a blend of comic skills and leading-man (though not major stud) charm that should serve him well in a wide range of films.

There's a lot of funny stuff, especially Jean's instinctive responses to orders to hotel personnel, even when he's on the receiving end of their services; but some of the most priceless moments of Priceless just involve Irène and Jean looking into each other's eyes.

There's less sentiment than in Breakfast at Tiffany's– the characters don't bother to explain or justify themselves, and there's no cat– but the comedy never sinks to the level of Mr. Yunioshi either. Director and co-writer Pierre Salvadori is as classy as his Riviera settings.