Year:  2020

Director:  Azazek Jacobs

Rated:  M

Release:  March 18, 2021

Distributor: Sony

Running time: 113 minutes

Worth: $14.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Tracey Letts, Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, Isaach De Bankole

…the various elements add up to an amuse-bouche rather than a full banquet.

Canadian-born novelist Patrick deWitt has a bit of a cult following. With his dry humour and self-aware but vain characters, he enjoys laying out bittersweet stories of life’s little tragedies. Director Azazel Jacobs (with help from deWitt on the script front) has tried to capture that feeling in this comedy drama about an American society lady fallen on hard times.

The heroine, if that is what she is, is Frances Price played with poised gusto by Michelle Pfeiffer. Early on in the piece, Frances is told she has been left more or less destitute on the death of her husband Frank. She takes the lawyer’s slightly shady advice and sells up what is left, to go and live in Paris. She brings along her adult son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges. Once in Paris, Frances enjoys being even more haughty than the haughty waiters, and doing eccentric things like trying to give away her remaining money to virtual strangers.

Various characters drift into the scene; a young woman called Madeleine (Aussie actress Danielle Macdonald from Patti Cake$), Malcolm’s sometime girlfriend Susan (the usually delightful Imogen Poots) and a handsome Parisian called Julius (French rising star Isaach De Bankole).

Once the motley crew are ensconced in a big apartment, the action slows right down and it becomes more like a play. The cast try hard and relish their juicy but unlikely lines. Some of this might work well on the page, but it doesn’t aid the film as a film.

Pfeiffer is never less than watchable, of course. It is amazing to think that this high-cheekboned beauty has been gracing our screens for more than four decades. She brings a certain grace and well-aged glamour to Frances. That doesn’t make her character really likeable though, and the occasional attempts to shift from icy farce to deeper drama mostly fail to hit the spot. It is hard to warm to the utterly spoilt Frances, even when we see her becoming aware that she was only able to affect a slightly defensive disdain for all around her through an accident of birth. The idle rich can be witty but, as indicated, this doesn’t make them loveable or admirable. In this the author’s ambivalence becomes our own.

Setting a film in Paris is always a visual bonus, and though the scenes in the parks and cafes are usually brief, there is still enough of that amazing city to add visual pleasure. In the end though, it isn’t enough, and the various elements add up to an amuse-bouche rather than a full banquet.


Leave a Reply