Paris Can Wait is Indigestion on Film

Directed by Eleanor Coppola
Sony Classic Pictures, PG, 92 minutes

If we could eat a movie, Paris Can Wait would be a gourmet meal at a four-star restaurant. Because we can’t, it induces the heartburn of a greasy spoon truck stop. It’s also a cautionary tale against nepotism.

The setup is dead simple. Anne Lockwood (Diane Lane) is married to a high-powered movie producer Michael (Alec Baldwin), who is so caught up in his work and incessant phone calls that he essentially treats his wife as an afterthought. I can’t think of a single heterosexual male on the planet who would ignore Diane Lane, so strike one in the Dumb Premise Department. Anne and Michael are in Provence, but he might as well be in his LA office as all he never looks at anything except his phone. Strike two.

Idiotic plot devices and a defiance of the laws of logic and human biology make strike three. Michael has to fly to Budapest to put out a production fire, but Anne comes down with an earache and can’t fly. Instead, Michael’s assistant Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive her to Paris, where Michael and she can rendezvous when the crisis is over. Road trip!

Now for the nepotism. Eleanor Copolla is married to Francis Ford Copolla and is the mother of director Sofia Copolla. She’s a skilled documentarian, but has never before made a feature film. She still hasn’t if we count this one. Do you think she would have gotten the chance to write the script (such as it is), co-produce, and direct Paris Can Wait were she not movie royalty?

Alas, she got this opportunity, and used it to make a travelogue documentary burdened with fictional characters. Jacques is a gourmand. Or at least that’s the setup for all manner of plot devices—and I do mean “devices.” Everything is simply an excuse for detours on the road to Paris that highlight regional sights and take us to gastronomic heaven. It all has the heft of Facebook postings of food. If only we could click “like” and move on.

It’s obvious to everyone except Anne that Jacques is trying to seduce her. This plot device requires that Lane act oblivious for most of the film. Aren’t we supposed to be light years beyond hot chick as bimbo roles? Anne doesn’t even pick up on cues when Jacques suggestively dips his finger into a cone-shaped chocolate delicacy called “Venus nipples.” That’s an actual thing, but really!

Not even this stretches credulity as much as the amount of food and wine Jacques and Anne consume in just a few days. Ancient Romans flanked by a vomitorium couldn’t put away this much food and booze. I wish I had counted how many glasses of wine each consumed in the course of a day. I’m pretty sure they’d be in a coma from that much alcohol, but I’d have to re-watch the film to be certain and there are some things I refuse to do for the sake of art.
Stereotypes of French men also abound.

If you want to see scrumptious food and stunning countryside and can’t afford a trip to Provence, borrow a National Geographic special. Or, you could watch this film—with the sound off. Paris Can Wait is an epic, as in epically bad.

Rob Weir


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