Light, airy, and sweet, Patrice Leconte's latest comedy swings his favorite premise—fruitful encounters between opposites—away from romance and into the wistful hunger for friendship in a careerist world. Daniel Auteuil slyly tweaks his easy geniality into a subtle form of heedlessness as François, an ambiguously successful antiques dealer who treats everyone around him with the same chilly dispassion he brings to his pursuit of beautiful objets d'art. When his business partner (Julie Gayet) challenges him to a pricey bet that he can't come up with a true friend in 10 days, he finds himself stumped for buddies until he meets his opposite, Bruno (the adorable Dany Boon), a sociable cab driver and collector of Panini stickers who gives François free tuition in how to be loyal and sympathique. The lesson backfires, and their rocky friendship is tested in an uproarious and tender climax on the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, where Bruno captures France's heart just by being a nervous wreck. Leconte embraces sentimentality with the wisdom of a seasoned man and the goofy, light heart of a teenager, but he's never glib or condescending, and his mastery of tone makes this delightful farce a nutty feel-gooder about the difference between a friend and a contact.
Auteuil all alone in Paris.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., July 27. Rated PG-13. 90 minutes.