A few days after it was announced that Wes Anderson would be scripting, and possibly directing a Universal remake of the 2006 Patrice Leconte French-language comedy/drama My Best Friend, I ordered the DVD from Amazon and immediately flipped for the 2/3rd’s bleak tale about a 40 something guy who is understandably horrified when it’s revealed to him that he actually has no friends in his life.
In the movie, this unexpected revelation plunges our sad-eyed, arts dealer lead Francois (played with such affection by Daniel Auteuil) into a mid-life crisis and immediate denial.
When his lesbian female business partner challenges him to produce a true and convincing friend in 10 days or he has to give up his expensive Greek friendship vase he just purchased (at the beginnings of his crisis), he knows deep down he won’t be able to do it.
Francois’ search for a friend begins when he visits who he remembers as being his best friend from school – but it turns out he always hated him!
He then leeches onto a cab driver (Dany Boon) with a penchant for trivia, who on the outside is full of life and easy-going, but in truth is just as lonely as him. They form something of a bond, and the cabbie will help the arts dealer learn how to become likeable and ready to make friends and as a series of sitcom-style situations don’t work out – it becomes clear the cabbie and the arts dealer are each day becoming more like real friends.
It’s a pretty rewarding movie with a universal theme that works well as both a comedy/drama, and a poignant Jason Reitman style social kaleidoscope, and a remake on this occasion is agreeable.
The latest update on the project from Anderson claims it’s unlikely he would be the one directing, despite enjoying the script he wrote;
I don’t have a plan to direct that. I wasn’t hired on to direct it; I was just hired to write. It was something where I thought that, while I was doing Mr. Fox, I’d be able to make this script for Brian Grazer. But in the end I liked a lot of it very much.
Now I’ve never been a fan of Anderson’s work, I find his humour tedious and his movies uncomfortable to sit through but I’m encouraged by a 16.11.09 script review at The Playlist – which I have only just stumbled across today, and I’m kicking myself that I never saw it when was originally posted, and I’m suddenly imagining a possible Up in the Air style adaptation, if Universal can find a George Clooney for the project.
Though it strictly couldn’t be Clooney for this one.
Although the similarities are there between Clooney’s Ryan Bingham and Auteuil’s Francois, it’s clear that the lead in My Best Friend isn’t as self-aware and whereas Bingham knows he has no friends because he likes to keep it that way, Francois has no friends because of his unlikeable attitude towards people, and Clooney, strictly no matter what role he plays, is never someone who you could believe had no friends out of anything other than choice.
And if he didn’t have friends, you could just imagine him walking into a bar, pulling off that movie star smile of his – and he would quickly become the most likeable man in town.
Maybe Steve Carell could pull it off but he too would have to shrug off his natural likeability, or even Adam Sandler if he brought his Funny People game to the table (though naturally speaking, he might be better off as the cab driver role)- but we’ve kinda seen Clooney do this role before and as I say – a friendless Clooney doesn’t sit with me.
According to The Playlist, Anderson spent a year writing the movie which he retitled The Rosenthaler Suite (pretentious warning!!) named after a set of paintings by Moses Rosenthaler, an elderly artist in his script whose talent has been overlooked. In Anderson’s version, our New York living lead Nicolas (the American version of Francois) is attempting to buy up all Rosenthaler’s paintings for any financial reward which he senses may come in a posthumous celebration of his art.
This is a change from the friendship vase of the original and the bet now concerns these collections of paintings.
The Playlist go further in saying the lesbian business partner has become two supporting players – a lesbian assistant named Natalie and the woman who makes the bet is now a rival arts dealer who is a cold, bitter middle-aged woman. They imagine a Meryl Streep type.
The trivia buff has now become a classical music connoisseur and is now Polish, which kinda restricts the casting on that one unless you have someone who can speak with a convincing Polish accent. It’s possibly a good call to say Anderson wrote the movie with his Darjeeling Limited actor Adrien Brody in mind for the role.
The Playlist give us their verdict on the script;
“It’s a nice enough script and a fun read, but Wes’ dialogue style and specific attention to dress and style can be stifling at times. Sometimes the simplistic vibe (though, similar to the original here) can be too cute and not real enough to resonate”.
So Anderson claims he won’t be directing the movie which may end up being bad news for his script as a whole as we can’t imagine anyone else directing a movie he wrote. Anderson’s style is so uniquely his own, so unless producer Brian Grazer can convince him to direct the movie – it’ll probably go through a complete re-write overhaul I’d say and when the Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis American remake of the French comedy Dinner For Schmucks, makes some green this summer – well this project would seem ripe for that kind of broad adaptation, whether we like it or not.
This article was first posted on January 19, 2010