We all grew up admiring and sighing over the bewitchingly beauteous Michelle Pfeiffer. How could anyone so beautiful be so talented? Chal jhoothi! Just to have Ms Pfeiffer back on screen is reason enough to forgive this film for all its trespasses….almost all. There are limits to how much one can stretch one’s sense of loyalty to its luminous leading lady to accommodate nonsense, especially pretentious nonsense such as this.
Soaked in a silken sophistication and cloaked in a cumbersome quirkiness French Exit is the kind of experience one would expect Ms Pfeiffer to have jumped at. Lamentably the leap lands her in a limp lukewarm soup. This is the supposedly amusing story of New York heiress Francis and her eternally confounded son Malcolm, played by the eternally confounded Lucas Hedges, I have never seen him play a normal teenager. And considering the way his screen mother responds to insolvency in this quirk binge, it would be unreasonable to expect Mr Hedges’character to remain normal.
Off he goes with his mesmerizing mom to Paris to escape the impact of bankruptcy. The actual weirdness kicks in when the mother and son arrive at their roomy Parisian apartment where a gallery of eccentrics soon collect together in what looks like a frightful revocation of hose halcyon times when classic actresses in fur coat smoked cigarettes on long holders, seduced moneyed men and slept in skimpy negligees which threatened to slip off their shimmering bodies.
Ms Pfeiffer does none of the above. But her character behaves as if it would do all of the above at any moment. There is a bland eccentricity at the heart of this irrepressibly whimsical comedy-drama, none more irrepressible and whimsical than the brilliant Valerie Mahaffey as a lonely French woman who insists on befriending Francis and moving in with her. Also, giving Francis and Malcolm company are a clairvoyant (Danielle MacDonald), a detective (Isaach de Bankolé), Malcolm’s distressed girlfriend (Imogen Poots who is very very good in a restaurant scene where her dithering boyfriend comes to inform her that he is leaving with his mother in Paris), and Francis’ best friend (Susan Coyne).
These are accomplished actors who are put in a film that has no idea what it is talking about. Oh yes, and there is a talking cat who, we are supposed to believe, is a reincarnation of Francis’ dead husband. I was willing to believe anything provided French Exit made a quick exit from my life. It did. I won’t miss any of the eccentric characters trying hard to be eccentric.
Directed by Azazel Jacobs, French Exit gets 2 stars!
Image source: IMDb, Youtube/ElevationPictures, Instagram/azazeljacobs