FRENCH EXIT, THE
(director/writer: Azazel Jacobs; screenwriter: Patrick DeWitt/based on the DeWitt novel; cinematographer: Tobias Datum; editor: Hilda Rasula; music: Nicholas deWitt; cast: Michelle Pfeiffer (Frances Price), Lucas Hedges (Malcolm Price), Tracy Letts (voice of the cat Small Frank), Valerie Mahaffey (Mme. Reynard), Benoit Mauffette (Rude French Waiter), Matt Holland (Headmaster), Eddie Holland (Young Malcolm Price), Isaach De Bankolé (Julius), Imogen Poots (Susan), Danielle Macdonald (Psychic Madeleine), Susan Coyne (Joan), Daniel di Tomasso (Tom), Larry Day (Ralph Rudy), Christine Lan (Sylvia), Robert Higden (Mr. Baker); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Noah Segal/Katie Holly/Christina Piovesan/Olivier Glaas/Christine Haebler/Trish Dolman; Elevation Pictures/Sony Picture Classics; 2020-UK/USA)
“Smart but not a particularly good dramedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s a smart but not a particularly good dramedy, adapted from the 2018 novel by Patrick DeWitt and co-written by him and the director Azazel Jacobs (“Terri”/”Momma’s Man”). The title refers to the aging Manhattan socialite’s sudden departure for France with her son when she realizes her inheritance is dwindling. It’s a film that plays weird with its eccentric characters and absurdist tale, and the characters it fills the screen with are mostly unlikable.
Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a 65-year-old New York high-society widow who goes through her life savings and moves to Paris with her apathetic twentysomething son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges, played as a boarding school student by Eddie Holland) and her black cat named Small Frank (voiced by Tracy Letts) before facing insolvency. Malcolm tags along even if he must leave his girlfriend (Imogen Poots),
After her cruise to France, where Frances meets the medium named Madeleine (Danielle Macdonald), she continues the friendship in Paris. There the haughty Frances moves into a small apartment in Paris that belongs to her good friend Joan (Susan Coyne), who refuses any rent. In Paris she meets the lonely widow Mme. Reynaud (Valerie Mahaffey) and a happy-go-lucky private detective, Julius (Isaach De Bankole), and they become a regular crew with the psychic. One day Susan unexpectedly comes by with a new beau named Tom (Daniel di Tomasso), who only adds to the maudlin atmosphere. You don’t have to be that observant of a viewer to realize this crew is not an engaging one.
A number of vignettes ensue of life in Paris (dealing with a rude waiter Benoit Mauffette becomes the most stinging one). Anyhow, most skits are either odd or dumb. As the tale goes nowhere fast in Paris, it eventually turns into a gloomy farce. Critics have praised Pfeiffer for her salty performance, and she might be up for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
REVIEWED ON 3/1/2021 GRADE: C+