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Priceless: The buying power of love 

Audrey Tautou's beauty steals more than the show

Audrey Tautou is gorgeous. Whether lighting up the streets of Montmartre as Amélie or glowing in the rich, sepia tones of A Very Long Engagement, the French star always seems more comfortable, and more beautiful, in her native land and her native tongue.

Director Pierre Salvadori (Apres Vous) knows this all too well. He exploits that uncompromising beauty to full effect in the breezy comedy Priceless, where he finds another idyllic setting for Tautou in the coastal French playground of Biarritz.

On the surface, Priceless appears all about the pretty, with Tautou sentenced to an entire movie of couture dresses and skimpy bikinis, flitting her way from millionaire to millionaire as the hardest-working girl in glow business. But Salvadori knows that beauty is only skin-deep, and he and co-writer Benoit Graffin impart this lesson throughout their script.

Bored one night when her sugar-daddy lover poops out, Irène (Tautou) mistakes bartender Jean (Gad Elmaleh) for a playboy. They enjoy a tryst and part. The two reunite a year later, but with disastrous results this time: Her older fiancé dumps her, and she blames Jean for her reversal of fortune. All Jean sees is a chance to make her fall in love with him. If he'd just grow a pair of balls and stick up for himself, he just might be Irène's match.

Old habits die very, very hard with some folks. The rest of Priceless is spent with Jean and Irène learning how to appreciate the better side of the other. As improbably as they hook up that first night, Jean becomes a gold-digger himself. He finds security in the gilded cage provided by the fiftysomething Madeleine (the equally beautiful Marie-Christine Adam) while he continues his pursuit of Irène.

As they dance their little tango, Irène softens just enough to teach Jean the tricks of the trade and for a spell he proves an eager student. But Irène might be seeing a mirror image of herself in this emerging gigolo. When it's time for Priceless to ring up its tab, the question becomes whether Jean will be able to melt Irène's heart before he chills his own.

Priceless 3 stars. Directed by Pierre Salvadori. Stars Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh. Rated PG-13. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and Lefont Sandy Springs.

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