Paris Can Wait

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Usually when a first-time filmmaker gives us something, they’re in their late 20s and it’s an indie project. This first-time filmmaker is 80! She’s also the wife of Francis Ford Coppola. Now, that’s not counting Eleanor Coppola’s terrific documentary Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

She certainly deserves credit for casting. Diane Lane looks as beautiful as ever and this would be a terrific role for her. The problem is the same thing I had with films like Cairo Time and Carbon Copy. You can’t just have great actresses in beautiful, exotic locations — and think you have a movie. And perhaps the critics will praise this, but really…it belongs in the same trash bin with the Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt film By the Sea a few years ago. About 90% of this movie is garbage. Now, there might be a few spoilers in my rant about how bad this movie is, but every review I looked at on this picture had similar spoilers. Since it’s rather predictable where the film is going, it’s more about the journey.

Perhaps I’ll start with the things the movie got right. The casting was perfect. Alec Baldwin, although not in this much, is the perfect person to play…not an uninterested husband, but…a husband that considers his wife more of a personal assistant than lover or confidant. The character of Jacques is played well by Arnaud Viard until he starts flirting so much it just seems odd. It needed more sexual tension, not tension because you fear this woman might get raped on the side of the road..

Another interesting thing the movie does is combine scenes in the film with classic paintings. One example is when the old Peugeot they’re driving breaks down and they have a picnic by a river. We quickly see a shot of Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass.”

The opening also does a decent job of showing the marriage between Baldwin and Lane’s characters. She starts to answer his question about how her day was, only to realize he’s asking his colleague on the phone. He gives her a gentle kiss and asks about breakfast, only to be bothered that the hotel charged them for a sandwich she ordered. She’s also in charge of getting all his heavy bags down to the lobby.

Now, for all the flaws. The initial premise that Jacques, a business partner, is so into Lane. He offers to drive her to Paris when she decides not to fly with her husband to Budapest. Yet from the moment they set off on their journey, it’s clear he wants to sleep with her. She sometimes calls him on this, other times…she seems flattered by the attention. Yet if her character had a brain, she’d realize what he’s doing is rather sleazy. Variety said in their review that the character “had all the nuance of a Pepe le Pew cartoon.”

Had their romance blossomed organically, we’d be invested in it.

Also, her character takes pictures of everything. It could be the food on her plate, the people she’s with, or close-ups of beautiful landmarks they stop to see along the way. At some point, Jacques notices she has a terrific eye for photos. We’re supposed to think how wonderful it is that he appreciates something she’s good at, when her husband never says a word about it. Yet, nothing they’re showing us proves she’s a very good photographer. She has no discerning eye whatsoever. She’s like those annoying people we see on Facebook and Instagram that post pictures of their food each day. How does this make her a good photographer? Would it have killed Coppola to show a scene in which she notices something that others wouldn’t have noticed, and takes a snapshot of it?

Would it have killed Coppola to hire a screenwriter? This supposedly is semi-autobiographical.  But…just because you’re eating the best food, cheeses, and wine…doesn’t mean we can praise this movie or claim that it’s for foodies. It’s a long, boring journey. Now, when Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon do road trip pictures where they’re eating food…we have humor and interesting scenarios. Nothing was interesting about this.

Even when each character shares a sad story from their lives, it feels forced. It wants us to become more invested in them as people. It doesn’t work.

The fact that this guy has “friends” everywhere, that hook them up with the best strawberries, or a tour of a museum…isn’t impressive. It’s implied that he’s sleeping, or has slept, with these women. At the museum, they make that clear when he goes into another room with the woman running the place, and comes out buckling his pants. So…what woman on the planet would find this enticing in a possible mate? Or even the least bit intriguing? It would just make you think he’s a louse. And when she comments on the worn piece of yarn he has around his wrist, he gives an explanation of how important it is to him. He tells of a journey with a guy and how it was given to him and he’ll never forget those experiences. Yet…he then gives it to her so she remembers this two day trip. Uh…is she supposed to be flattered by that? I’d immediately think that’s one of his many lines. After all, if it were so important to him, he wouldn’t give it up. If anything, he’d get a new bracelet to give her, to symbolize their journey. Of course, this is a movie, so she adores the gesture, and immediately ties her hair up with it.

And of course, he lets it slip that her husband has had affairs. Because, what woman wouldn’t just jump into bed with a man that gave her news of the infidelities of her husband, for the mere purpose of getting her into bed. Great move, Jacques. She storms off in anger, but…what if this woman had a great marriage, told her husband, and his ass was fired? Even with her not being in the best marriage, he’s still stupid to think that she’s not smart enough to realize that’s the lowest form of manipulation.

The last movie I saw Lane in was Trumbo, and she was terrific in it. She’s had a great career, and I understand why she took this part. There aren’t a lot of great roles for women over 40 on screen. Unfortunately, this isn’t one. It would need a script. It felt like Coppola was more interested in the next five-course meal than investing in the characters. All I really found out about her is that she likes cheeseburgers from room service, chocolate, and taking photos of every single thing put in front of her face. Because, you know, that’s what all good photographers do. They just snap photos non-stop.

Weirdest product placement I recall in a movie — a character plugs Coppola’s son-in-law’s band Phoenix [I’ll give them a second plug: you’ll be able to hear Phoenix in Sofia Coppola’s new film Beguiled]. Speaking of music, the score in this was annoyingly jubilant.

Don’t see this movie on an empty stomach, or it will drive you nuts. And, don’t see it after you’ve eaten — you might just barf from watching such a bad film. My advice? Don’t see this movie. A good movie would’ve made you want to eat with them, and join in their conversations. I felt like it was a road trip I was on as a 10-year-old, because I just kicked the seat in front of me and muttered, “Are we there yet?!”

1 star out of 5.