French Exit

By Joanna Langfield

Imperfectly perfect, this gem-like film can drive you crazy and make you love it all at the same time. Kind of like it’s anti-heroic heroine.

Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Frances Price, a wealthy widow whose vast inheritance has just about run out. Frances has never been, shall we say, responsible, but has still hung on to one dear friend and the son she plucked out of boarding school and plopped into her Upper East Side life. So, with a few Euros stuffed into her Vuittons, Frances, son Malcolm and their cat take off for their loaned apartment in Paris, not particularly interested in starting over. But begin again they must. Or must they?

There are moments so absurd, so seemingly lackadaisical, you might wonder why anyone would want to hang in there with this sporadically comedic drama. Some very good actors are wasted, notably Tracy Letts, who, well I won’t give it away, but any time we don’t get to spend quality time with Letts is a sad time by me. And why are we supposed to give a hoot about this stick-cold woman who treats almost everyone with contempt? But, here’s the weird thing. We do. Or at least eventually we do. And we come to tolerate, as she does, if not downright enjoy the odd collection of characters that wind up in Frances’s new world. But, at its heart, and yes, it does have one, this is a movie about a mother and son, two fractured figures who, somehow figure things out.

Lucas Hedges is a joy, as always, but this is really Pfeiffer’s movie and she runs with it, creating a mysteriously witchy woman who we might actually miss if she dumps us. Meeting and spending time with characters like this is much safer for us when they’re just on the screen but Pfeiffer, who inhabits her, still creates a relatable woman who gets us, somehow, to care.