The situation for the French comedy My Best Friend is simple to the point of being mechanical: a successful antique dealer — a stick-in-the-mud socially — bets his partner that he has a best friend, all appearances to the contrary. It’s a conundrum that would be a subplot or montage sequence in any other movie, but veteran director Patrice Leconte lays it out for mild feature-length farce. What exactly is a true-blue pal, the movie asks, answering through one man’s quest to secure a fake friend for the bet, and a steady trickle of friendship bromides.
Daniel Auteuil, back once again (Caché, The Valet) as a man of some position threatened with a fall, plays François the oblivious loner. Taxi driver Bruno (Dany Boon) is the affable chap he latches on to as BFF prospect and tutor in picking up acquaintances. (How François has managed his clients and business while being a moron socially is a mystery.) Their courtship and separations hit many of the beats of a romantic comedy, complete with groan-worthy, pride-swallowing reunion.
Funny-pathetic bits have Auteuil chasing down acquaintances as potential buddy candidates and pestering two flustered strangers about how they became friends. Fumbling its setup, My Best Friend goes overboard by having everyone who knows François hate him (though maybe that’s a good corrective to all the cranks, men mostly, who get inexplicably adored on screen).
Leconte (Les Bronzés, The Girl on the Bridge) has been vocal about his plans to retire soon after some more lightweight fare, and he is indeed coasting with My Best Friend. It’s not awful, but it is a cut below his abilities.