Photo | “French Exit” – Blinder Films
Chic, melancholy and quirky, “French Exit” is a droll film adaptation from the book of the same name by Patrick deWitt. Although that author also wrote the screenplay, one thing the film boasts over the novel is the incomparable Michelle Pfeiffer, who stars as Frances Price, a widowed New York socialite who runs out of money. She hocks her remaining possessions and flees with the cash, her son, Malcolm (played by Lucas Hedges), and their cat to a friend’s apartment in Paris, where she plans to exit life on her own terms.
Frances is well known in New York’s social circles for her legendary reaction to the untimely death of her husband (played by Tracy Letts). Her indifference to the event led to brief incarceration and lingering infamy, but mostly left her and Malcolm as a deeply connected pair for life. Her son drifts comfortably through existence with the sloth his wealth affords him, to the chagrin of his long-suffering secret fiance, Susan (played by Imogen Poots), who adores him despite his lack of ambition in life or love. Frances and Malcolm are utterly cocooned and in their own disaffected manner, quite content to be so — two well-dressed peas in a pod.
Traveling to France on an ocean liner, the mother-son duo encounters a psychic named Madeline, who can tell when people are going to die and also notices their feline companion, Small Frank, possesses the lost soul of the late Frank Price, erstwhile husband and father. Once mother, son and cat reach their Parisian destination, the film simply explores their eccentric personalities for a while and steadily adds more to the mix, including a delightful Valerie Mahaffey as a fellow widow living abroad.
It’s my feeling that you either do or do not want to watch a droll character study with mean rich people and talking cats in Paris. I am firmly in the “do” column, and “French Exit” did not disappoint. My favorite scene is when a snooty French waiter refuses to rush the check out to Frances and Malcolm, who try to leave after they experience the horror of being served a cold omelet. The waiter enjoys the honor of unbroken eye contact with Pfeiffer as she starts a small fire on their table.
From her glamorous wardrobe to her magnificently disdainful character, Pfeiffer is resplendent and unforgettable as Frances, the perfect role at the perfect age for her. The moments when emotion breaks through her gorgeous and icy facade are well calibrated; she even reluctantly gives way to a few nicely portrayed female friendships. Mahaffey is silly and lovely, and my favorite of the ever-growing cast of misfits who eventually camp out in the borrowed apartment.
Hedges takes a role that is predicated on being passive and unemotional and brings it to life anyway. He and the always delightful Poots portray a somewhat ludicrous couple but utterly endear themselves to the viewer. Theirs is far from the greatest love story ever to come to the screen, but it is compelling and singular.
Droll, well-written and emotional in its own way, “French Exit” is a small, weird film with a very specific kind of appeal. The characters are not noble or loveable, but they are funny, witty and memorable. And well dressed. And if the cat seances get too ridiculous for you, you’ll always have Paris as a beautiful background. “French Exit” is idiosyncratic, stylish, wordy, minor in scope and shallow in feeling, but if you’ve read this far into the review, you will probably love it.
“French Exit” is now available to rent.
New This Week:
“Cruella”: Set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, this film follows a grifter named Estella (Emma Stone), a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her fashion designs. Nexus Cinema Dining, All multiplex theaters.
“A Quiet Place 2”: Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path. Crescent Theater, Nexus Cinema Dining, All multiplex theaters.
“Dream Horse”: The inspiring true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely racehorse bred by small-town Welsh bartender Jan Vokes (Toni Collette). With very little money and no experience, Jan convinces her neighbors to chip in their meager earnings to help raise Dream in the hopes he can compete with the racing elites. The group’s investment pays off as Dream rises through the ranks with grit and determination and goes on to race in the Welsh Grand National showing the heart of a true champion. All multiplex theaters.
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here