“Paris Can Wait”
It’s not often that a sincerely made, completely uncynical film should turn out to be awful, but that’s the case with “Paris Can Wait,” the narrative feature debut from Eleanor Coppola. Coppola, who has shown a sure hand as a documentarian — she made the superb “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” in 1991 — has turned in a poorly acted, colossal bore of a film.
Part naive travelogue and part abortive romance, it’s the story of Anne (Diane Lane), who is beginning to feel neglected by her husband, a big-shot producer played by Alec Baldwin. Through a mix of circumstances, she winds up going on a road trip with one of her husband’s colleagues, a flirtatious Frenchman named Jacques (Arnaud Viard). Because Jacques wants to seduce her, a ride that should have lasted a few hours is stretched into several days — several very, very long days.
It’s only in the opening minutes that “Paris Can Wait” seems to offer hope. Coppola, who is married to Francis Ford Coppola, knows something about what it’s like to be married to a movie mogul; and in these early moments there is the sense of looking behind the curtain. As the producer, Baldwin exudes authority and charisma — he glows with power.
Yet even in these early scenes, a tin-eared quality emerges. Anne and her husband are in Cannes. Lane’s plaintive glances suggest that all is not well, and maybe it isn’t. But it’s hard to feel sorry for someone whose husband has apparently abused her by taking her to the French Riviera.
Then Baldwin disappears, never to return. We’re left with Lane at her most self-conscious and mannered, playing a woman so boring that her most interesting character note is that she does sudoku; and with Viard, who is considerably less attractive than Baldwin and has the wrong energy for the role of seducer.
And so they drive. And we’re forced to listen to them talk. The script is entirely without subtext. The characters say exactly what they’re thinking, and what they’re thinking isn’t interesting. I suppose two things were intended to keep audiences in their seats: our desire to see how things work out between Anne and Jacques, and the film’s travelogue of Provence and Burgundy.
There’s no sexual magnetism and no spiritual connection between Anne and Jacques. There’s nothing at stake. Anne’s marriage isn’t bad, but isn’t so good, either. Jacques seems neither like a short-term thrill nor a long-term prospect. Everything is lukewarm.
As for the travelogue, we see a building here and a building there. The travel information is basic. I suppose because the characters never stop eating, the movie can be called a gastronomical exploration, but it’s more a flaunting of wealth. Anne tells Jacques that her vice is chocolate, and he orders every chocolate dessert in the restaurant. She takes a little nibble out of one or two. They order multiple bottles of the best local wine and have a sip of each, then leave the rest on the table. The movie wants us to see them as epicures, but they’re really just rich people, plowing through everything, valuing nothing.