FRENCH EXIT (2020)
Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey, Susan Coyne, Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, Isaach De Bankolé, Daniel Di Tomasso, Eddie Holland, Matt Holland, Christine Lan, Robert Higden, Larry Day, Laura Mitchell, Christopher B. MacCabe, Julian Bailey, Rebecca Gibian, Una Kay, Vlasta Vrana and the voice of Tracy Letts.
Screenplay by Patrick deWitt.
Directed by Azazel Jacobs.
Distributed by Sony Classics Pictures. 110 minutes. Rated R.
French Exit is a very strange film, but strange does not necessarily mean that it is bad. In fact, it is pretty good, and it offers Michelle Pfeiffer her best role in years. It’s kind of a sin that she was not at least nominated for Best Actress in the Oscars.
Pfeiffer plays Frances Price, a selfish and jaded aging trophy wife who has nearly run through all the money from the estate of her late husband. Now she is in her sixties, has no skills and no real interest in getting a job. She is left with a conundrum – being homeless and destitute, or trying to find some way to support herself and her grown son.
Her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) is similarly spoiled and detached from his emotions. He also relies on the money for day-to-day life and is also in the midst of a very dysfunctional relationship with his girlfriend (Imogen Poots).
Frances dotes over their pet cat – a stray who just showed up one day – which is odd because she is very much not a nurturing, loving sort. However, it turns out that she and her son believe that the cat is inhabited by the spirit of her late husband, and he is watching over them. And it turns out that they may not be completely crazy to think that.
They decide to go to Paris and stay in a friend’s apartment for as long as the money holds out, at which point Frances is contemplating suicide as an answer to her financial problems. They meet some very eccentric people in France, he has an affair with a jaded medium, Frances spends what little money they have left like a drunken sailor and Malcolm’s former girlfriend shows up in Paris with her combative new boyfriend.
It sounds like a horrifying situation, but in many ways French Exit is darkly surreal and surprisingly comic.
French Exit is based on the novel of the same name by Patrick deWitt (who also wrote the screenplay) and it is a deft balancing of the tragic and the absurd. And, as noted earlier, Pfeiffer nails this meaty role, making Frances much more sympathetic than the character’s brittle cynicism and casual cruelty may deserve.
There is an intriguingly oddball group of supporting characters satelliting the Prices’ orbit, well played by Poots, Valerie Mahaffey, Susan Coyne, Danielle Macdonald and Isaach De Bankolé.
French Exit doesn’t always make sense, and the ending is a little ambiguous (but mostly in a good way), but overall it is a fascinating trip.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 2, 2021.