It is the story of wealthy people struggling to become a little less wealthy when they come to a time when this prospect seems even less appealing than usual and it is written without any self-awareness that could have made it acceptable. It’s not like DeWitt asks us to feel sympathy for the pampered mother-son couple forced to move from a Manhattan townhouse to a spacious Parisian apartment, but he asks us to feel. Something, a thorny problem that persists throughout the movie’s excessive runtime. Eccentric socialite Frances (Michelle Pfeiffer) gained notoriety in wealthier circles in New York City after finding her husband dead and deciding to leave for the weekend before reporting it. She lives with her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) and they share a fragile relationship, a relationship that is tested even more when Frances learns that she is out of money. After a friend offers them her apartment in Paris, they opt for a change of scenery with their cat, who Frances says is embodied in the spirit of her late husband.
Despite being based on a book barely two years old, there is something very early in the 2000s about French Exit, belonging to the dusty post-American beauty boom in dysfunctional family indies, alongside films such as Igby Goes Down, Tadpole, and Imaginary Heroes with a heavy nod to The Royal Tenenbaums, but emerging as far as its patchy predecessors. DeWitt confuses an abundance of eccentricities as a characterization and his underguided dialogue with Wes Anderson muffles when he comes out of his book as well as a total mismatch for the actors chosen to speak it. Pfeiffer, who has always been a luminous movie star rather than a legendary character actor, is lost here on a smaller canvas and delivers an uncomfortably misjudged and oversized performance, the kind Patricia Clarkson might do in her sleep, but there is at least a minimum of effort which is more than what can be said for Hedges going through the movie with the confusion of someone not quite sure what he’s doing or why he’s there. They encounter a series of wacky one-noters, from Danielle Macdonald’s cruise ship medium to Valerie Mahaffey’s lonely widow, and silly scenarios such as a bathroom shoot and a frozen dildo, but the stack of squeaky quirks rather than intrigue, an unnecessary assemblage of quirk, surrealism for surrealism sake.
There is a self-righteousness in the film that I found incredibly off-putting, each “witty” line delivered with a sly wink followed by space for a restrained laugh. Yet instead, it feels like watching the first night from a really bad room, awkward coughs filling the dead air. When emotion makes its way into the film, it is too late to have an impact and given the way these characters were presented to us, it is impossible for us to feel them or take care of them all the time. a knock. In a below-par year for movies, with a lot to come in 2021, there will be worse than the French release coming, but I doubt there is anything so boring.