Awkward, slight romance takes backseat to bucolic France
In the midst of the relentless summer blockbusters about superheroes and aliens and pirates, the beleaguered film critic can be forgiven for seeking out a movie about normal adult humans having realistic interactions. Perhaps that’s what the team responsible for Paris Can Wait aspired to create, and maybe they even decided to up the appeal by making those humans movie-star attractive, then placing them against the gorgeous background of bucolic France. Unfortunately, it would appear this was the only reason for the film.
Anne (played by lovely, winsome Diane Lane) is a married woman at a crossroads in her life. Comfortable but unfulfilled in a long-term marriage to Michael (Alec Baldwin), a successful but neglectful movie producer, Anne is emotionally shut down, dreading the life ahead of her now that her daughter has left for college. She tags along on her husband’s business trips to romantic European locales, but it’s clear that the romance does not truly stir her.
Thanks to a convenient plot device, Anne is unable to fly to their next stop, and so Jacques (Arnaud Viard), a French movie colleague of Michael’s, offers to drive her from Cannes to Paris. Of course, being French, Jacques is a consummate roué and gourmand, with a lunch reservation and a liaison in every stop along the way. A day trip turns into several days, chock full of impromptu picnics, sumptuous meals in luxurious inns and restaurants, and serious talk about life, love and food.
The plot points of Paris Can Wait are predominantly predictable, creaky even. The screenplay makes no real effort to explain or justify various characters’ motivations. We’re meant to accept it on the surface, and ultimately, that’s what this film is really about: beautiful superficialities.
Directed and written by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola, in her feature film debut, Paris Can Wait is essentially an exceeding handsome food and scenery tour. It’s pretty for the viewer to look at, and perhaps to wistfully aspire to such a bon vivant lifestyle. But we get no truly genuine glimpses into these characters’ interior lives. Even the teasing chemistry between the two leads is unconvincing and awkward.
Paris Can Wait is certainly appealing in a straightforward sensory way, but it has very little on its mind, and by the end of this culinary travelogue, I found myself regrettably longing for the more conventional summer movie pleasures of talking raccoons, menacing space bugs or a certain roguish sea captain. Sigh!