Paris Can Wait (2017) ☆ ☆

In food terms some films are smorgasbords while others are fast food.  Paris Can Wait is a soufflé of a movie, apt because food takes center stage every ten minutes or so, and pretty food images are innumerable.  It guides us through beautiful France and teases us with the European lifestyle, which is to put work on the back burner and enjoy what life has to offer us, all of which is thematically effective.  But it never achieves anything more.  People who love fancy French food and wine and picnics by idyllic rivers and semi-romantic atmosphere will probably enjoy this film — but I was bored.

Eleanor Coppola’s film is beautiful to behold and it has a certain dramatic tension because Anne (Diane Lane) is driven across France not by her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) but by his business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard).  A quick trip to Paris takes a couple of days — and nights — while Anne is driven to distraction by her guide, who seems to know every shop owner and pretty woman on the route.  Eventually she makes peace with their journey and relaxes, only making Jacques more attractive to her.

Coppola’s style is realistic more than romantic.  Anne is clearly uncomfortable but accepts that she cannot control Jacques or the pace of their trip.  His casual charm and desire to enjoy the trip disturbs her for some time — and it irritated me.  I’m a man; I know what Jacques is up to.  That he succeeds even a little bit makes me think less of Anne and dislike the movie even more.  To be sure, this aspect of the movie sets cultures against each other and asks viewers to take sides.  The director seems to favor the French joie de vivre; I was not so convinced.

Besides being bored with so many interminable scenes of the travelers eating — usually small, colorful food on large plates — I was struck by Diane Lane’s pedantic role.  Under the Tuscan Sun highlighted Lane in a similar role, but with a more romantic bent; here she seems not just ill at ease but out of place.  I kept wishing she would get to Paris so she and her dull movie-producer husband could carry on with their lives off screen and I could watch something more interesting, like a baseball game.  ☆ ☆.  9 June 2017.

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