THIS REVIEW IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY KATHY KAISER
DIRECTOR: Azazel Jacobs
SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY: Patrick deWitt – based on his novel by the same name
STARRING: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Valerie Mahaffey, Susan Coyne, Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, Daniel di Tomasso and Isaach De Bankol’e
It’s been way too long since the beauty and acting prowess of Michelle Pfeiffer has graced the big screen, and in such a perfectly cast role as this one for her too, as we meet New York Socialite Frances Price (Pfeiffer) making her way through life with her rather stoic son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) in tow, who has as much trouble dealing with his own feelings, and life in general, as his mother truly does.
When Frances is informed that her finances are in ruins, and the lifestyle she has grown accustomed to is about to be very short lived – her best, and as it seems ONLY true friend in this world Joan (Susan Coyne) comes to the rescue, giving Frances a very gracious escape plan from their socialite lives in New York, as she allows Frances and Malcolm to hold out in her flat in Paris, for as long as they like.
As Frances struggles to decide what to do with the rest of her life, as being poor for her was never in the cards, her son Malcolm tries to come to terms with telling his mother about his new fiancé Susan (Imogen Poots), even though it seems Frances understands more about his life, than his relationship, than either of them give her credit for…
Traveling by sea to the fabulous land of Paris’, both Frances and Malcolm have very different encounters with the ships Medium, Madeleine (Danielle MacDonald), but her presence in their lives become unmistakably pertinent, especially when their cat, Small Frank, decides to high tale it out of their apartment. Now Frances is left with no other choice than to hire a private detective named Julius (Isaach De Bankole) to search out Madeleine In Paris, so her cosmic connection with their cat, can hopefully help them find him.
And as if their lives aren’t peculiar enough thus far, they receive an invitation from Madame Reynard (Valerie Mahaffey) once in Paris, although neither Frances, nor Malcolm has a clue of who this rather bubbly, yet total stranger is. And even more strange with this invite is, why in the world is she asking them to dine in with her?
As the flat in Paris becomes rather full, as Frances seems to want to surround herself with everyone that has touched her life so far in grand Paris, as besides Malcolm, now Julius, Madame Reynard and Madeleine, are planted on the scene. And who should appear to work on her estranged relationship with Malcolm now too but Susan, who turns up in Paris to see if she can fix her relationship with Malcolm, but rather peculiar too in this mixed-up tale, is that she has her new boyfriend Tom (Daniel di Tomasso) in tow.
As Frances attempts to come to terms with a life lived well, but not too well for long, it seems her dead husband (Tracy Letts) and her have just a few things they still need to work out, before she finally decides it just might be time to go…
I give FRENCH EXIT a rating of 4 STARS – Michelle Pfeiffer literally lights up the scene in this somber, and rather intellectually peculiar look at a women’s life that was once filled with grandeur and high society, which seemed to be a masterpiece in the making, that was until her husband decides to up and die, and the assorted circumstances surrounding his death that she’s a part of, leave the world judging her profusely. But the perfect revenge here is, she could really care less what the outside world thinks of her. What an exquisite departure this viewpoint ended up being for me along the way, as for a person who cares about what everyone is her life thinks, FRENCH EXIT provides a rather refreshing departure from real life. The important mother/son relationship depicted throughout this film becomes rather melancholy, as it seems that genetically the stoic and depressive nature of these two characters is perfectly suited for their rather functional, yet dysfunctional existence throughout their lives. Lucas Hedges is exceptional too, as he once again puts the perfect performance of a rather non-emotional young man on screen, playing opposite Pfeiffer the whole time. I also enjoyed the strange, but poetic performances of Susan Coyne, as the best, and apparently only true friend of Pfeiffer’s character Frances, and the comic relief element brought to the screen by Valerie Mahaffey, as Madame Reynard, ~ perfectly planted at all the right times ~ keep this film flowing quite nicely. My struggle with the film, hence garnering my 4-Star Review, comes from the “more than enough” characters that inhabit this films space, and which all basically have no fulfilling ending for me, by the time the credits started rolling. But, even with an ending that left me unfilled to say the least, the saving grace throughout every inch of this film is Pfeiffer’s exceptional performance, as without her, and the way that she draws you in, this film would have never been put before us for judgement as a potential Award season contender like it was, in hopes that she would garner the accolades that she truly, and most rightfully deserves.
Suffice to say that even though as this movie as a whole just missed the mark in receiving a 5-star review from me, Pfeiffer’s exquisite performance throughout sure does, leading me to suggest that you venture to a theater near you this weekend to see it, even if FRENCH EXIT just wasn’t quite picture perfect!