Maybe a road trip filled with beautiful sites and great food is the only way to experience a country (as we are told). But the buoyant road drama “Paris Can Wait” proves that you need a little more than fancy dishes and lovely scenery to make an egaging movie. Don’t get me wrong, this is a film that has its moments. But it’s also a movie that leans way too heavily on its culinary and scenic fascinations.
“Paris Can Wait” is written, directed, and co-produced by 81-year old Eleanor Coppola. An accomplished documentarian and wife of Francis Ford Coppola, this is her first fictional drama and her first film of any kind since 2007. Here she creates a simple and lighthearted premise that should feature plenty of fun and charm. Sadly there isn’t enough of it.
Diane Lane plays Anne, a woman living in the shadow of her pompous movie producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin). The two were set to fly from Cannes to Paris until Michael is called away to a movie set and Budapest. He agrees to let his production partner, a charismatic Frenchman named Jacques (Arnaud Viard), drive Anne to Paris. Along the way Jacques takes one diversion after another introducing Anne to an assortment of French locales and cuisine.
There are plenty of beautiful locations to catch your eye and the food looks delish. The story playful hints at Jacques’ intentions as the two share one conversation after another in the car or around the table. But it doesn’t take long to realize the film has little to offer past that. It’s repetitive formula goes something like this: they visit a cool site, find an expensive place to eat, and then Jacques lectures Anne on enjoying life the French way. It remains stuck in this one gear for the entire trip.
That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the characters and their conversations were appealing. Viard doesn’t project the irresistible French charm the movie needs him to portray. But the bigger frustration revolves around Diane Lane. There’s nothing glaringly wrong with her performance. It’s just that Anne is such a shallow, naive character who spends the bulk of the film doing whatever she is told. Unquestionably Coppola wants to speak to empowerment, but she doesn’t pull it off. The movie’s last shot all but solidifies that idea.
I really wanted to fall for “Paris Can Wait”. I have a soft spot for these types of movies and I’m a Diane Lane fan. But the majority of the picture leaves Lane in the passenger seat and the scrumptious photography can only carry it so far. If only Coppola would have let her star take the wheel and given her a meatier role to work with. Instead I grew tired of their monotonous conversations and the utter lack of dramatic tension. I found myself annoyed at Jacques’ cloying banter and Anne’s wistful obedience. And I kept wondering who would ever fall for this guy? If that’s your main question you can expect to have some issues with this film.
VERDICT – 2 STARS