French Exit – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Azazel Jacobs
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey, Imogen Poots, Susan Coyne, Danielle Macdonald, Isaach de Bankolé, Tracy Letts
In cinemas now
Based on the novel of the same name by Patrick deWitt, who also wrote the screenplay, this surreal drama tells the story of Frances Price (Pfeiffer), a Manhattan heiress who loses everything after her husband’s death. After selling her remaining possessions she and her henpecked son Malcolm (Hedges) relocate to her friend’s small apartment in Paris along with their cat… which just happens to be Frances’ reincarnated husband!
Not being familiar with the source material I have to admit the whole husband reincarnated as a cat thing took me by surprise. However, after I processed it, it seemed to make perfect sense in the context of the quirky characters and somewhat thin story. It’s actually not the strangest plot point in this film!
Pfeiffer is fantastic as Frances. She manages to make a caustic and brusque character likeable and you do become quite invested in her. She plays well with Hedges as her long-suffering son Malcolm. He is suitably hangdog although his performance lacks some nuance.
The supporting cast peppered throughout the story are very strong, however, some of the characters aren’t properly developed. Hence we get lots of very wordy exposition explaining their context to the story. This is a trope often used by novelists who adapt their novels for the screen, however, it is a rather monotonous one. The original writer is often too close to the characters and possibly not the best choice to write the screenplay. And indeed that seems to prove true here as despite some brilliant and touching moments, overall it is a bit tedious and at almost two hours it does drag.
This will probably be a bit too surreal for most, especially in the current times where we are living in a surreal environment from day to day. However, it is worth watching for Pfeiffer’s wonderful performance. She has created an extremely memorable character in Frances and was rightly nominated for a Golden Globe for her efforts. Not the future classic that it seems to think it will become but probably worth a watch.
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