Director: Eleanor Coppola
Runtime: 92 minutes
Surprisingly at the age at 81, Eleanor Coppola (Francis Ford’s wife and Sofia’s mother) has decided to direct her first fiction film after decades of watching her filmmaker family win Oscars. Paris Can Wait offers a straightforward road trip story that centres on the beauty of France, and Coppola does it with unabashed romanticism. One can make the case that the movie feels more like a travelogue than a narrative. Although the characters are accessible, the film is likely to play well in art houses – it’s too genial for mainstream audiences.
Anne (played by Diane Lane) is visiting Cannes with her movie producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin). At the last minute, he has to fly to Budapest due to dramas on a film set. Unable to accompany him due to an ear infection, Anne agrees to let Michael’s business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) drive her to Paris. Once they hit the road, Jacques becomes Anne’s tour guide, making unplanned detours to museums and restaurants. Food is his passion; he stuffs Anne with literally every item on the menus. (He’s not the same Jacques who tried to seduce Marge on The Simpsons, but he comes close.)
Paris Can Wait offers a low-key, pleasant, and non-confronting 90 minutes in the cinema. The problem is it might be too pleasant and inoffensive. The character of Anne fills three purposes – driving, taking pictures, and eating lots of food. Although the screenplay attempts to give her a backstory (her nest is empty after her daughter moved to college, her store went out of business and Michael’s work keeps him at arm’s length), it’s never the film’s ambition. Her most substantial feature is her camera: there are many visuals of the stills Anne captures. The production does earn points for its charm, beautiful locations and large variety of lovingly-presented food.
Admittedly, Diane Lane lends an air of legitimacy. The Oscar-nominated actress has been quiet in recent years (Man of Steel was her return to the screen after a three-year absence) and so it’s nice for her shine in a lead role again. She proves at 52 that she’s still got warmth, charm and elegance.
However, Paris Can Wait isn’t always especially funny. Coppola seems to think there is droll humour to be had in Anne being a meek and uncomplaining companion. The promised nine-hour road trip turns into three days and she gives into Jacques’ spontaneous detours after notifying him many times they are already behind time. He keeps saying, “You Americans are always in a hurry. Live in the moment”. The movie may find Jacques charming and romantic, but I can’t blame anyone for finding the character smug.
Like Anne and Jacques’ chemistry, the premise is thin, but the film is still watchable. Those who will see Paris Can Wait are looking for something calm, safe, gently humorous and entirely unchallenging, and that’s exactly what they’ll get. Well, that and lots of wine and cheese.