Hot Take: Thinking about seeing Paris Can Wait? It can wait for DVD.
One of my favorite films of all time is Before Sunrise. The Richard Linklater film features Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and follows them as they meet on a train in Budapest as the two travel to France. The film is filled with intrigue, romance and while almost nothing happens, so much happens in the course of the film’s 101 minute run time. While it might be a stretch, Paris Can Wait has some similar plot elements to the Linklater classic that spawned two excellent sequels. What it lacks is a couple that has the chemistry of Jesse and Céline and also contains a rather dull adventure that feels more like something you’d see on The Food Network rather than at your local cinema.
When Anne (Diane Lane) leaves Cannes with her film producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), she decides at the last second that flying to Budapest might be a bad idea due to some ear problems. She instead decides to travel directly to their next stop in Paris. Michael’s business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne from Cannes to Paris since he’s conveniently headed that way anyway. Anne reluctantly agrees and Michael is too engrossed in his own life to even get jealous of the thought of the pair spending almost 6 hours in a car together (the road trip from Cannes to Paris should take about 5 and a half hours) and hops in his private jet leaving the two to their own devices.
Immediately and frequently, Jacques detours their trip to various restaurants for Anne to try food from the region. Each stop is filled with Jacques’ uninteresting tidbits about the history of the area, why French food is better than American food and his generally nonchalant approach to everything while Anne has nowhere else to go and seems put off by the extravagant meals and extended time the trip is taking with her relatively unknown, flirtatious tour guide. What bogs the film down is that Anne and Jacques have very little chemistry which makes the potential of a budding affair between a married woman and a flirtatious Frenchman very hard to swallow even following numerous 7 course meals.
What could have been an over 50 version of Before Sunrise is a disjointed bore. Director Eleanor Coppola, the 81 year old wife of Francis Ford Coppola, makes her feature film directorial début with Paris Can Wait. At 81, it’s both commendable and foolhardy to think her first effort would not be at least a little disjointed but it is noticeably inconsistent and the timeline — it takes the pair almost 2 days to make the 5 and 1/2 hour trek — is really out of whack. I get that they stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner both days but even with that, why does it take them an estimated 36 hours to get to their destination? At 2 hours for meals, 8 hours for sleep that leaves 16 hours for other random stops and driving.
One of the film’s distributors is Lifetime and, as the film progresses, the thought sinks in that maybe the Lifetime Channel is the perfect destination for the film. In that setting, Paris Can Wait might have worked better. However, there are higher expectations for movies released at the theater and the cast and previous works with similar themes have set the bar pretty high for this film and it never comes close to clearing the lofty expectations. What we’re left with is a disconnected, disjointed romance with a total lack of chemistry and a hard to swallow dilemma for our main character whose decision on whether to cheat on her husband or not seems like a rather easy one. If anything, if the trip made her question her marriage, she could definitely do better than Jacques.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Diane Lane
Lane’s performance is the only thing of any real substance throughout the film. She puts the film on her back and carries it from bad to mediocre. Without her, it’s possible another leading lady would have sunk this film like the Titanic.
- It’s a 92 Minute Advertisement for Traveling the French Countryside
Even though our tagalong couple isn’t very interesting, the film might make you want to take a trip to France, rent a car and see the country by car.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Lazy Filmmaking
The film opens with Lane’s character getting very little attention from her husband as he bounces from one call to another and barely pays attention to his wife as she complains about her ears. Right there since we know where the film is headed, you realize there might be a dilemma here when another man starts giving her any type of attention. There’s plenty in the audience who will say, “Go for it, Anne. Your husband doesn’t deserve you.” However, the real question is does Jacques deserve her either? That never really is up for debate though.
- The “Will They or Won’t They?” Element Never Works
It feels less “Will they or won’t they?” and more “If you’re going to, get it over with already.”