Paris Can Wait
PARIS CAN WAIT, road-trip romance, rated PG, Violet Crown Cinema, 2 chiles
Think of Paris Can Wait as a modern take on a Doris Day-Rock Hudson romance, without the wit and snappy repartee. It’s also a road movie, a travelogue, and a gastronomic sampler, with a few slides of famous French artworks thrown in along with a little autobiography.
That last part is courtesy of writer-director Eleanor Coppola, who makes her narrative feature debut at eighty after a film career that includes several documentaries chronicling the behind-the-camera dramas of movies made by family members — most memorably, her critically acclaimed Hearts of Darkness (1991), about the apocalyptic filming of her husband Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Eleanor’s visit with Francis to the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, and a drive to Paris with a business associate of his, provided the impetus for this movie.
Anne (Diane Lane) is at Cannes with her producer husband, Michael (Alec Baldwin, in a role not unlike his turn in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine). Pleading an earache, she decides to head straight to Paris while Michael flies off to Budapest on business. She plans to take the train, but Jacques (Arnaud Viard), her husband’s producing partner, is driving to Paris, and offers her a ride. But Jacques, of course, is French, and so an anticipated seven-hour straight shot up the autoroute (nine-and-a-half hours, according to Google) turns into an opportunity for detour, diversion, distraction, and perhaps romance.
Jacques has scarcely cleared Cannes and pointed his Peugeot convertible north when he pulls off for lunch at a Michelin-rated joint. Anne protests, but not too much, and allows herself to be seduced — by wine, gourmet food, and scenery — into slowing down and smelling the roses.
The big question, of course, is whether she will allow herself to be seduced into anything more — how do you say — French? This eventuality is clearly on the mind of Jacques from the moment he shifts the car into gear and eases onto the A7. The situation quickly becomes apparent to Anne, of course, but as a good American wife who was raised on canned food in Cleveland, she is no pushover. She holds him effortlessly at bay while snapping endless pictures with her digital camera.
The trip north is rich in visual rewards, and will make you wish you could dine every night in the kind of wine-drenched epicurean wonderland where Jacques is welcomed with hearty familiarity by maîtres d’ and come-hither glances from beautiful women. But the dialogue, which should make the time fly by, is a bore, the French-American stereotypes are tedious, and the suspense — will she or won’t she? — is not rich enough. — Jonathan Richards
Fantastic voyage: Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin; inset, Lane and Arnaud Viard