French Exit

How do you make an art film? You might start with some eccentric characters and have them doing odd things in exotic places. Say, for instance, Paris. But a gray and rainy Paris, not the colorful one.

Add a soundtrack dominated by pensive piano music with the occasional woodwinds. Throw in some an assortment of side characters, some of whom are a bit off-center. And maybe have something gimmicky like a séance and a black cat that may be… special.

To get the money to make such a film, line up a well-known star like Michelle Pfieffer. And cast an up-and-comer like Lucas Hedges. They co-star in the new movie French Exit.

Here’s the good news: Michelle Pfieffer, now in her early 60’s, looks great! She is rocking red hair in this film. Her wardrobe is spectacular, even her housecoat. 

Here’s the bad news: French Exit is a bore. 

When New York socialite widow Frances Price (Pfieffer) is told that her money is running out, she liquidates what’s left of her valuables and takes her adult son Malcolm (Hedges) with her to Paris. Frances carries huge stacks of currency which she hands out freely. 

Early in the film Frances says, “my plan was to die before all the money ran out.” Later in Paris, she writes, “when the money runs out I’ll kill myself.” Throughout the film the stack of bills on the closet shelf keeps getting smaller.

Frances is not an especially likable person. Nor is Malcolm. The relationship between mother and son, testy at times, should have been better developed. 

Sadly, it’s hard to root for a happy ending. Or for an unhappy ending. What I was rooting for when I watched French Exit was simply… an ending. (But Michelle Pfieffer does look good, even as she makes her… French Exit.)

(For what it’s worth, Wiktionary says the term “French exit” means “A hasty exit made without saying farewells to anybody.”)

French Exit is rated R. (Language. No nudity. A smidge of violence.)