At age 81 --- there's hope for me yet --- Eleanor Coppola, yes, Francis Ford's wife, has written, directed and produced her first feature film, "Paris Can Wait". When she screened the finished piece in Paris for her French cast and crew, many lauded it as "a postcard of France", and I couldn't agree more.
Anne (Diane Lane) and Michael Lockwood (Alec Baldwin) are in their lovely hotel room readying to leave Cannes, France for Budapest, then finally Paris. Michael is an obsessive workaholic, as evidenced by his barking-dog ring tone, while Anne concerns herself with the
more mundane issues of everyday life --- like planning their college-age daughter's birthday celebration. She and her business partner have recently closed their dress shop and Anne is at a crossroads.
When a bothersome ear prevents Anne from flying with Michael, his French associate, Jacques Clement (Arnaud Viard), insists that Anne drive to Paris with him. Starting out in his vintage Peugeot convertible, what should have been a seven-hour drive turns into an odyssey, and an awakening for Anne.
Ms. Coppola, who is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and mixed-media and installation artist, has based "Paris Can Wait" on her very own French adventure via car from Cannes to Paris in 2009 with a cuisine-obsessed charmer. Though Eleanor's screenplay is all dialogue driven, she never misses an opportunity to pay homage to the breathtaking French countryside, and, more importantly, the exquisite food and wine which Anne and Jacques share.
For Anne and Jacques, Coppola chose well. Lane is ideal as Coppola's vision of Anne as "every woman" --- beautiful, but not too beautiful, down to earth, together, chic, and smart. And Lane possesses a wonderful sense of humor so easily translated on screen, as "Paris Can Wait" contains a few rather amusing moments.
Viard, too, is perfectly cast. He's somewhat handsome, but definitely more charming, which he combines with a delightful self awareness and nonchalance. "Paris Can Wait" is his first time working in English, so husband Francis helped out by securing a dialect coach for him. However, if you are seeing this film primarily for Baldwin, his role is extremely brief.
As I have written repeatedly, small films, such as "Paris Can Wait", are my favorite. No attention to detail is left unturned due to Coppola's outstanding crew, specifically cinematographer Crystel Fournier, multiple Oscar winner costume designer, Milena Canonero and production designer, Anne Seibel, who was daughter Sofia's art director on her film "Marie Antoinette".
"Paris Can Wait" is utterly and completely enchanting. When Jacques' Peugeot breaks down on the side of a deserted road, and he produces a picnic basket from the trunk, I wanted to weep for joy. Jacques gives Anne the trip of a lifetime --- one just about any woman would kill for --- paying attention, David?
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
Movies don't get much simpler in their storyline than "Paris Can Wait". Anne Lockwood (Diane Lane) is an American visitor to Cannes, France, married to workaholic movie producer, Michael (Alec Baldwin). When Anne can't fly with her husband to Budapest, she accepts an invitation from Michael's French associate, Jacques (Arnaud Viard) to ride with him to Paris, and meet up with Michael later.
The catch is that Michael is not very attentive to Anne, but Jacques makes up for it by treating her with prototypical French charm and his natural wit on a road trip that lasts three days instead of the anticipated seven hours. Traversing the beautiful French countryside, they find themselves dining on scrumptious cuisine and expensive wines, while Jacques gets progressively more bold in his flirtation with Anne. Initially, Anne appears irritated by Jacques' constant attention. But as the hours pass, Anne seems to weaken ever so gradually, and so our curiosity is peaked.
Eighty-one-year-old filmmaker Eleanor Coppola, who wrote the script based on her own similar experience, chose her small cast carefully, although Baldwin was a last-minute fill-in to play Michael. Movie fans who might think "Paris Can Wait" is an Alec Baldwin vehicle should know his part is very small. But it would be a mistake to pass on this film for that reason.
Lane and Viard make an engaging couple. Both actors are well cast. Jacques doesn't come on too strong, and Anne resists his not-too-subtle advances with just the right amount of reluctance. We're never really sure where it will all end. If you're a fan of Lane's work, this is a must see. She effortlessly carries the entire film.
Coppola, admittedly not a great cinema enthusiast despite being married to Francis Ford Coppola, shines in this, her feature-length debut. For the various bits of French dialogue --- mostly between Jacques and restaurant wait staffs --- Coppola opted not to use English subtitles. So "Paris Can Wait" is that rare movie which utilizes a foreign language, yet eschews a word-by-word explanation. No matter, moviegoers can interpret for themselves with full clarity.
There are also bits of intrigue along the way. For example, Jacques seems to have conveniently forgotten his wallet, and Anne winds up paying for all the food and wine during the trip. Is he really just a con artist, or will he pay her back?
An infectious sound track by veteran composer Laura Karpman, who doubles as a governor on the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, accompanies the pair on their journey. "Paris Can Wait" is a charming little sojourn that also looks splendid on the big screen.
Opinion: See It Now!