PARIS CAN WAIT (2016)
Starring Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard, Alec Baldwin, Cédric Monnet and the voice of Linda Gegusch.
Screenplay by Eleanor Coppola.
Directed by Eleanor Coppola.
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 92 minutes. Rated PG.
Lord knows there are much worse ways to spend an hour and a half than driving around the French countryside, sightseeing, visiting stunning ancient churches, museums, quaint inns and gourmet restaurants with Diane Lane.
So, right off the bat, Paris Can Wait is time well spent.
Too bad that there is not too much more to the movie than that. Travel romances – when two people learn about each other while talking their way through a multitude of scenic areas – are a pretty specialized genre. They hit their apex with Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset trilogy, where two very different people come to have an intimate connection through a shared experience.
Paris Can Wait is the first feature film by Eleanor Coppola, the 81-year-old longtime wife of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. (Eleanor’s only other film is Hearts of Darkness, the fascinating documentary about the harrowing filming of her husband’s film Apocalypse Now.)
Coppola wrote this sweet soufflé based upon a similar life experience she had lived through (as Linklater had with Before Sunset). Perhaps because the story is her own life, Coppola doesn’t really notice that there is not much in the way of plot here. Not much happens, but like I said earlier, what doesn’t happen looks spectacular.
Paris Can Wait was made, strangely, by the film division of the Lifetime cable channel. And to a certain extent, Paris Can Wait does feel like that most stunningly photographed Lifetime movie ever. It has some of the Lifetime touchstones – the beautiful, intelligent woman questioning her suddenly passionless marriage; the self-absorbed, workaholic husband; the romantic, flirtatious foreigner who reminds her what it feels like to be alive; the lingering specter of possible infidelity.
Lane plays Anne, the wife of a big-shot film producer (Alec Baldwin) who has some films playing at the Cannes Film Festival. She came along with her husband Michael, planning on making a trip north to Paris as a vacation after the festival is over. However, Michael is a workaholic, trying to put out fires in a few of his international projects. When he has to fly to a set and she has an ear infection and can’t fly, his French partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne up to Paris.
Jacques is a slight stereotype of a Frenchman, a laid-back, flirtatious, slightly shady seeming but very charming companion. They drive in his aging sportster, which has to stop every hour or so to avoid blowing up. Therefore, they hit a series of museums, restaurants, meadows and other scenic points throughout the countryside.
Jacques obviously has no problem with the idea of rather blatantly trying to have an affair with the wife of his business partner, however he is also a gentleman and mostly keeps his hands to himself. As they get to know each other better, Anne starts to get swept up in the situation, and starts to consider the idea as well. Michael is so caught up in his work, she likes the idea that a man would still be interested in her. But could she really have an affair?
Sadly, the will-they-or-won’t-they aspect of the movie is Paris Can Wait’s least interesting part.
Paris Can Wait works best as a guided tour of the streets, chateaus and backroads of Provence and Lyon, with the added aspect of quaint architecture, stunning scenery and mouthwatering food porn. Perhaps Coppola would have been better off having the film made by the Travel Channel than Lifetime.
I’m certain that the trip that inspired Paris Can Wait is a very special memory for Eleanor Coppola. The fact is, though, it isn’t nearly as arresting for a stranger on the outside. The movie doesn’t quite work as a character study, despite some very fine work by Diane Lane.
However, Lane is such a charismatic star, and the film is so gorgeously filmed, that the film works better than it has any right to. Just sit back and let the spectacular scenery wash over you.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 26, 2017.