Review by Jacquelin Hipes
The good news is that Francophiles will surely find something to love in Eleanor Coppola’s first feature film, Paris Can Wait. The camera lingers indulgently on multi-course meals and broad fields of lavender in bloom, committing to celluloid memory the full, colorful spectrum of France caught in the throes of spring. Far less vivid are the two leads, whose meandering road trip from Cannes to Paris—the means by which we see these gustatory and scenic excesses—starts to feel interminable before it ever really gets underway.
Anne (Diane Lane) is accompanying her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), a film producer whose phone never stops ringing, to the Cannes Film Festival. The constant demands of his job mean that Anne is predominantly left to her own devices. A little adrift from shutting down her successful dress shop following a business partner’s departure, she finds some amusement in amateur photography, snapping away at the details of an abandoned brunch on their patio. An on-set emergency in Turkey demands Michael’s immediate attention, but Anne’s ear ache leaves her grounded. Luckily Jacques (Arnaud Viard), a French colleague of his, offers to drive her from the coast to her husband’s next stop in Paris, where he has some business meetings the next day. Unfortunately for Anne—and the audience—what should be a straightforward trip quickly descends into an aimless, and largely pointless, tour of the countryside.
Occasional protests from Anne over their numerous and expensive stops (a glimpse of one dinner receipt shows a total of €750) always fail to build any lasting tension that might lend some direction to the journey. Even the accidental revelation of a rather large lie her husband told about a lost Rolex results in nothing worse than Anne angrily storming away from the dinner table; the next morning, she smiles and blushes over the surprise coffee tray Jacques has delivered to her room as if nothing amiss transpired the night before. This impermanence of emotion renders a smattering of third act revelations toothless. In the absence of sentiment or humor—only a couple of jokes solicited a lone chuckle from the audience—Paris Can Wait manages to settle into a strange combination of blandness and pretension. It’s clear we’re meant to feel something about these extravagant meals and the conversations that take place over them, but precisely what and why is never answered to any satisfaction.
(And a small plea to filmmakers whose scripts make use of more than one language— let the bewilderment of an actor’s face indicate that they don’t understand what is being said, and provide subtitles for those viewers who find themselves in the same predicament.)
Given so little to work with, Diane Lane comes across as uncharacteristically dull. A rare and welcome bright spot in her performance comes in the form of a deeply personal monologue near the film’s end, regrettably too late to make up for the previous hour and a half. The flirtations of Viard’s Frenchman come across as creepy rather than charming, which works against any hints of reciprocation we may be meant to see. As neglectful husband Michael, Alec Baldwin is boringly inoffensive.
What does come across clearly in Paris Can Wait is Mrs. Coppola’s fondness for France and French culture. Perhaps another story could have better shared this warmth with a larger audience, but for now, Paris feels even further away than before.
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