Chéri (French for darling) is the nickname of Fred, a young man in the Belle Époque period in Paris. He has an affair with Léa (Michelle Pfeiffer), an aging retired prostitute or courtesan as the French say.
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Although Léa plans on a short fling with Chéri only, their affair develops into a long term relationship, during which Léa starts paying for his keep. However, the two insist their affair is casual. Léa finds out Chéri's mother, Charlotte (Kathy Bates), is making arrangements for Chéri to marry eighteen-year-old Edmée, the daughter of another courtesan. Chéri doesn‘t want to marry her, but he has no choice. Léa kicks Chéri out, but makes him promise to treat Edmée well. Chéri agrees and they part ways. It is only when Chéri and his wife are honeymooning in Italy that Chéri and Léa realize they genuinely love each other. Moreover, Chéri realizes that while sex with Edmée is strained, sex with Léa was fun.
Chéri asks his mother Charlotte to visit Léa and find out about her personal life. Léa tells Charlotte she has fallen for a new suitor, and Charlotte tells her that Chéri and Edmée are very much in love, both stories being untrue. When Chéri breaks into her house that night, professes his love for her. The two spend the night together and make plans to run away. However, the morning after, Léa apologizes to Chéri for spoiling him, making life too easy when they first got together. She tells him to go back to his wife, because the twenty years age difference would always stand in the way of their relationship. Chéri leaves reluctantly. Léa stares at her aging face in the mirror, a voice-over says she is angry for having been born two decades too early, and that Chéri realizes after a while that Léa really was the only woman for him, leading him to take his own life.
Best part of story, including ending:
The story shows the harsh judgement on aging women and its consequences.
Best scene in story:
Where she takes a long hard look in the mirror and is convinced she is too old.
Opinion about the main character:
It's sad she has internalized society's harsh judgement on aging women.