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DAVID GREENE, host:

It's been two decades since actress Michelle Pfeiffer, director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton combined to bring us the film "Dangerous Liaisons." Well, now the trio has returned with "Cheri." Here's Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan with a review.

KENNETH TURAN: "Cheri" is taken from a pair of novels by Colette, and is set in the waning years of France's pre-World War I Belle Epoque.

Michelle Pfeiffer plays Lea, an aging courtesan who's thinking of retiring. As she says longingly to her maid: Is there anything in the world more wonderful than a bed all to yourself?

But then in bursts Cheri, a handsome, 19-year-old wastrel. Cheri's been devoting himself to disreputable pursuits, but as soon as he sees Lea, the two begin to flirt.

(Soundbite of movie "Cheri")

Mr. RUPERT FRIEND (Actor): (As Cheri) Which one are you taking to Normandy with you?

Ms. MICHELLE PFEIFFER (Actress): (As Lea) I'm going on my own.

Mr. FRIEND: (As Cheri) Nice to be so rich.

Ms. PFEIFFER: (As Lea) You're welcome to come if you like. There's nothing to do there but eat, drink and sleep.

Mr. FRIEND: (As Cheri) Where is this place?

TURAN: Cheri and Lea do go off to Normandy together, and that's just the beginning.

Pfeiffer and British actor Rupert Friend have excellent on-screen chemistry. His role as the classic brooding and callow youth is more prone to cliche, but the actor brings a level of reality to his performance.

As for Pfeiffer, she has an aura around her throughout the film, an air of timeless beauty that is always welcome. But as the relationship continues, her character's sadness and confusion at the turns things take make the actress look increasingly careworn.

It's worth noting that despite Pfeiffer's beauty, she's gotten to the age that Hollywood regards as dangerous from a box-office point of view. So it's more than a little ironic that "Cheri" happens to be about a woman whose increasing age is also problematic. This is art imitating life with a vengeance.

Especially effective in "Cheri" are the wordless scenes that catch Lea unawares, with the camera alone seeing the despair and regret that she hides from the world. It's the kind of refined, delicate acting that only experience can provide. And it's a further reminder of how much we've missed Pfeiffer since she's been away.

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: That's Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times. And we review more movies, including a new Iraq war drama called "The Hurt Locker" at npr.org

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