Paris Can Wait: French fantasy grounded in truth

July 28, 2017

 

Paris Can Wait (PG)

Rating: 3.5 / 5

 

Not many 71-year-old women make their feature film directorial debut with major Hollywood leads like Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin.


But Paris Can Wait director Eleanor Coppola is an artist-turned-filmmaker who wrote this film based on a personal experience in 2009. A bad head cold meant she was unable to fly and accompany famous film director husband Francis Ford Coppola to the Cannes Film Festival and meetings in Eastern Europe.


At her husband’s suggestion, she accepted the offer of Francis’s French business colleague to be driven to a Paris apartment where she would rejoin her husband.


However, the Frenchman had other ideas, so what was meant to be a seven-hour direct journey to Paris became a fascinating 40-hour tour of the good things in life.


And that’s Paris Can Wait in a nutshell—like many good writers, Coppola turned a real-life experience into a warm and engaging screenplay.


No doubt the Coppola name helped garner the services of Lane and Baldwin, but the third star of this trio is French actor-director Arnaud Viard, performing in English for the first time.


Coppola’s female perspective seems to give this film a meandering, gentle sense of humour and charm.


Initially, Lane’s character Anne is a devoted but exasperated wife whose husband is so consumed by his business that she is rather neglected, though certainly loved. Anne is in her 50s and wondering where her life is going.


The fact that her husband Michael (Baldwin) suggests that she travel to Paris with charming Frenchman Jacques (Viard) shows a level of trust and the marriage seems to be on firm ground.


But instead of the direct seven-hour drive to Paris, Jacques is determined that the fraught Anne learn to appreciate new experiences, seemingly all connected with food and drink. Jacques is a true Epicurean, who is desperate to convert Anne to an appreciation of the finer things of life.


Coppola is a skilled filmmaker who enjoys throwing out little hints and red herrings to her audience. Early on, Jacques needs to use Anne’s credit cards, due to an implausible story about why his cards are temporarily cancelled. Anne is suspicious, but allows him to do so. As an audience, we immediately distrust Jacques.


We have all heard of URST (unresolved sexual tension), but in this film the chemistry between Anne and Jacques could be described as RST (resolved sexual tension) as we reach the end with our two protagonists going their separate ways while largely remaining committed to their own lives. At one point, an affair looks likely, but does it happen? 


The cinematography of France is beautiful, and the shots of food will make you salivate.


This is a gentle and entertaining film about what is important in life, and how we sometimes forget to discover it. 


Highlight: glorious French food

Red flag: adult themes

 

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