Michelle Pfeiffer is good…The Movie? Eh, Not so much.
Whew boy, where to begin on this one? Strange. Confusing. Weird. Dry. Did I say strange?
First, look at the movie poster I’ve included with this review. Go ahead. Notice any common theme in all the quotes above the image? Everyone agrees that Michelle Pfeiffer (and some of the cast) is fantastic in this film. Notice anything else about those quotes? Do you see any that say this movie is a “must watch,” or anything close to it being a good movie? Yeah. Me neither. There’s a reason for that.
Just like the quotes say, Michelle Pfeiffer is good. Really good. But when isn’t she? I haven’t seen all of her movies, but she’s usually pretty good in anything she stars in. That doesn’t mean the film she’s in necessarily is. And unfortunately for Ms. Pfeiffer this movie won’t be one that people add to their favorites anytime soon.
To say it’s bad wouldn’t be accurate, but it just doesn’t seem to have any point. At all. Pfeiffer stars as an ex-socialite in New York, who has burned through what money her dead husband has left her, and has a very strong influence over her grown son. Once it’s clear that her life as she knew it in the States is over, on the advice of a close friend, she takes what she has and moves to said friend’s apartment in Paris, France — taking her son with her. Her son, played by Lucas Hedges, is engaged to be married, but is scared to tell his mother, and rather than doing so — essentially breaks off the engagement and moves to France with her. Once they arrive it Paris, with the cash they accrued by selling all of their belongings, it starts to become apparent that Pfeiffer’s character, Frances Price, is intent on getting rid of all of the funds and ending her life. Sounds fun, right?
Along the way, we meet some interesting characters, including a cat whose body is inhabited by her dead husband (this is not something Frances just believes — we actually learn this to be true when she talks to the cat / dead husband through séances in which he speaks to her, and everyone else, via a candle). Perhaps the best part of the film, other than Pfeiffer, is Valerie Mahaffey, who who plays the self-proclaimed Madame Reynard. Nearly every scene she’s in — she steals. She’s endearing and funny. I would have been okay if the movie would have been about her instead. The rest of the people in the film (who very rarely emote anything, let alone move their face!) are just there to seemingly make it feel quirky and eccentric. They don’t really serve much purpose, and it’s hard to have any attachment to them. By the time we have been introduced to all of them, I really was only interested in Pfeiffer’s character and the aforementioned Madame Reynard.
I’ve learned in reading about this film, that it is based on a novel by Patrick DeWitt, who also helped with the screenplay. If that’s the case, that novel must be infinitely better than the movie (as is almost always the case), because the film itself feels void of purpose. Other than Frances Price coming to terms with her life — which I’m guessing is the point? — the overall story seems to just…exist. There’s no real beginning, middle, or end — let alone climax or “aha” moment. It’s just there. With a run time of just under two hours, it feels much longer and I kept wanting the point of it all to reveal itself. Alas, it didn’t. At least to me it didn’t. It just kind of…ends.
I know some people like films like this, where it’s up to you to decide how everything resolves itself. And at times, that works, but usually the movie has to have strong characters, emotions, and a story you feel attached to. In other words, you care. Unfortunately for French Exit, about halfway through I was looking for the exit. Maybe if you watch it — it’ll work for you, but it didn’t for me. I like taking in movies that make you think, or are more artistic — especially ones with odd humor, but this one just didn’t work for me. Sorry.
2 out of 5
French Exit opens in theaters April 2nd, and is Rated R for language and sexual references.