French Exit

 

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Michelle Pfeiffer enjoys herself enormously as a spoiled socialite who discovers that, with her funds dried up, she’ll always have Paris.

   

French Exit

A must for Michelle Pfeiffer completists: Ms Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges 

 

It is perhaps typical that the cat is called Small Frank. Not Little Frank, or Frank Junior, but Small Frank. Likewise, Michelle Pfeiffer’s blasé socialite Frances Price speaks like a character plucked from an old novel. The film itself is adapted by Patrick deWitt from his book, but often feels more like a stage play, with an Absurdist pinch of Eugène Ionesco thrown in. Indeed, everybody is a Character with a capital C, but none more so than Frances Price who, when she’s not gracing the social pages, is creating mild havoc in the lives of those who work for her.

 

We know from the start that she has never done a day’s work in her life and expects everything to be handed to her on a silver platter. Then, like the Rose family in Schitt’s Creek, her fortune is whisked away and she has to make some stark choices. Of course, there’s not just Frances, but her grown-up son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), a superior, aloof, emotionally stunted being who lives off martinis and champagne. It’s a wonder he’s got a girlfriend, Susan (Imogen Potts), and she’s wondering what she’s doing with him. The cat, Small Frank, is also very important, as becomes apparent later on in the drama. But before then, Frances is rescued by an old friend, Joan (Susan Coyne), who offers her the use of her apartment in Paris, a good place to die for all troubled Americans…

 

Azazel Jacobs’ French Exit is very much its own thing, displaying an artificiality that gathers some comic momentum in its later stages. But an insistent clarinet and oboe on the soundtrack, designed to push home the film’s rarefied arched eyebrow, is an irritant. Ms Pfeiffer herself, her Botox-fuelled stance adding a perfect note of supercilious affectation, is in her element. If she’s not careful, she might yet become something of a grand dame of Hollywood royalty, edging out her more cosmetically-enhanced elders. It’s a part that secured her a Golden Globe nomination, but that was maybe going too far. The film’s stand-out is in fact Valerie Mahaffey as the dithering, lonely Mme Reynard, who proves no match for the vixen under Pfeiffer’s skin. There’s good work, too, from the always reliable Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$) as Madeleine the medium, known affectionately as "the fucked witch.” Lucas Hedges, though, again registers the preppy scowl of constipation that has become his trademark. You pays your money…

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey, Imogen Poots, Susan Coyne, Danielle Macdonald, Isaach de Bankolé, Daniel Di Tomasso, Eddie Holland, Christine Lan, Larry Day, Christopher B. MacCabe, and the voice of Tracy Letts.

 

Dir Azazel Jacobs, Pro Christine Habeler, Christina Piovesan, Noah Segal, Trish Dolman, Katie Holly and Oliver Glass, Screenplay Patrick deWitt, from his novel of the same name, Ph Tobias Datum, Pro Des Jean-Andre Carriere, Ed Hilda Rasula, Music Nick deWitt, Costumes Jane Petrie, Dialect coach Kate Wilson.

 

Screen Siren Pictures/Elevation Pictures/Blinder Films-Sony Pictures.

110 mins. Canada/Ireland. 2021. Rel: 2 July 2021. Cert. 15.