Michelle Pfeiffer has been excellent in all manner of movies, but in such period pieces as The Age of Innocence and Dangerous Liaisons, she has proven to be especially memorable, ably portraying passionate yet stifled women who find themselves as constricted by the mores of society as by the corsets they don under their dresses. In Cheri, the movie itself is the corset, strangling the actress and everything surrounding her until all the breath has been driven out of the material.
Adapted from two works by Gigi author Colette, Cheri and The Last of Cheri, this new collaboration by the Dangerous Liaisons team of Pfeiffer, director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton is a deadly dull affair about a deadly dull affair between a retired courtesan named Lea de Lonval (Pfeiffer) and Cheri (Rupert Friend), the young son of another former courtesan (Kathy Bates). The wealthy Lea takes care of her young stud for several years, but their relationship is threatened when Cheri's mother helps arrange a marriage between her son and a demure woman (Felicity Jones) closer to his own age.
Friend is excruciatingly boring as the supposedly magnetic Cheri, meaning that it's a mystery why Lea would want to spend one minute with him, let alone many years. The lack of chemistry between the pair serves to weaken an already rickety enterprise, with the miscast Bates' incongruous turn (she's about as French as Captain America) providing some unexpected relief in this cinematic flatline.