director: Azazel Jacobs (momma's man)
starring: michelle pfieffer, lucas hedges, danielle macdonald and imogen poots
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
A widowed New York socialite and her aimless son move to Paris after she spends the last of her husband's inheritance.
French Exit was directed by Azazel Jacobs and is based on the book of the same name, which was also written by screenwriter Patrick deWitt.
In French Exit we follow Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer), an ageing widowed socialite struggling to comprehend the reality that the last of the money has run out. After years of living a life full of luxury, she is at an utter loss. When reminded by her lawyer that this outcome was foreseen and that she should have had a plan, her reply is that the plan was to die before the money ran out.
Her son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) gives the strong impression of being an affluent ne’er-do-well. Engaged in a relationship he is listless about and always dressed in black and white, alongside his mother he struggles in trying to reconcile the difference between his life before and whatever is to come next.
Michelle Pfieffer has garnered much praise for her performance as Frances, leading to her Golden Globe nomination for the role. She lends a kind of humanity and complexity to a role which could easily have been interpreted as only aloof and entitled - while her portrayal of Frances is of a woman who is certainly those things, she isn’t only that.
Lucas Hedges’ Malcolm is similarly complex; initially presenting as apathetic, entitled and kind of insufferable. He becomes more understandable later, when contrasted with the new boyfriend of his estranged fiancée, as someone with a gentle and empathetic nature, free from (whether reasonably so or not) the banal pressures of society.
An interesting thing about French Exit is that it seems intended to be a spotlight into understanding Frances and Malcolm better, rather than to explore how they are to grow as people and to overcome their problems. The film closes with the characters having no deeper insight into themselves or their problems and leaves us with the sense that Frances hasn’t changed her plan, despite having been given so many opportunities to do so. It’s kind of unfortunate.
However, with enough humour and interesting casting to keep things rolling, French Exit is ultimately a thoughtful film with strong leading performances, especially from Michelle Pfieffer.