Paris Can Wait
Rambling romantic trip to Paris should have taken the bullet train
Paris Can Wait
Directed by Eleanor Coppola
Cast: Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin, Arnaud Viard
Another Coppola family member jumps into the feature filmmaking biz with the ambling romantic comedy/travelogue Paris Can Wait. Unfortunately, Eleanor Coppola (longtime wife to Francis Ford) offers precious little romance and not a lot of comedy in her first, late-in-the-game offering.
Over the years Mrs. Coppola has shot a bit of behind-the-scenes footage on her famed family’s films, contributing to such DVD extras as “The Making of Marie Antoinette” and “Francis Ford Coppola Directs John Grisham’s The Rainmaker.” At 81 years of age, she tries her hand at a feature, resulting in the exact sort of pretty, pseudo-exotic, post-menopausal romance you’d expect a wealthy, film-obsessed octogenarian to make in conjunction with Lifetime Films (this film’s actual co-producer).
Paris Can Wait gets underway at the Cannes Film Festival. (How very navel-gazing of you, Eleanor.) There, we meet Anne (Diane Lane), bored wife to overworked Michael Lockwood (Alec Baldwin). Michael is a big-time Hollywood movie producer with one ear glued permanently to his cell phone. The couple are all set to hop a private plane to Budapest when Anne has a sudden, inconvenient earache. Michael’s somewhat ill-defined “business associate” Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne to Paris. He’s going there anyway, and it would be nice to have some companionship. Anne agrees, Michael sets his phone down long enough to kiss her goodbye, and we’re off into the picturesque countryside of southern France in a convertible.
Despite the fact that we spend the entire film with her, the script (authored by Mrs. Coppola) tells us precious little about Anne. Her life is more or less defined by her husband’s job—and you’d expect the film, at least, to get her out from under that shadow. But no. At one point, we hear she once owned a dress shop, but it closed down when her partner moved to England. Also, she takes insignificant, arty photographs: weeds on sidewalks, cracks on walls, attractive entrées in restaurants. It’s some sort of shorthand indicator that she’s looking for beauty in the tiny details—something the film wants desperately to do as well. But like Anne’s random, Instagram-worthy pics, it doesn’t add up to much.
Lane has made a long journey from the innocent ingenue in George Roy Hill’s 1979 film A Little Romance to her current status as the preferred object of affection for the Viagra generation (Under the Tuscan Sun, Must Love Dogs, Nights in Rodanthe). She’s got more than enough beauty and charisma to carry this sort of film, but she’s mostly working alone.
Jacques, by way of contrast, is portrayed as a mildly lecherous, life-loving sensualist who cares about women, wine and food (in any particular order). For him, every wrong turn is an opportunity to visit some out-of-the-way museum. Every automotive breakdown is an excuse to stop and have a picnic. As Anne and Jacques’ day rip to Paris stretches into a long weekend, it goes from pleasant idyll to near kidnapping. Viard, known mostly as a TV actor in his home country, has a certain rumpled charm. But his character comes across as overbearing, mansplaining every factoid he can dredge up (Roman history, wine, cooking), dragging Anne to fancy restaurants and ordering for her, and occasionally dropping in on ex-lovers for a little afternoon delight. Man, is this guy French.
Basically nothing happens over the course of the film, but where other talky travelogues succeed (see for example: Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy), Paris Can Wait simply meanders without purpose. Whether or not Anne will cheat on her husband with Jacques is a moot point. By the end, everyone here comes across as smug and overprivileged. They quaff expensive wine we can’t taste, chow down on gloriously composed meals we can’t savor and complain about how boring their rich husband’s business trips are. The whole thing feels like an attempt to exclude the audience. But hey, at least Coppola and her actors got a nice vacation in the French countryside out of it.