I was looking forward to “French Exit” almost exclusively because of its cast. The film stars the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges and Danielle Macdonald. Though its story didn’t appear to be anything too crazy, I still thought it had the potential to at least be engaging.
“French Exit,” which opens at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center this Friday, is directed by Azazel Jacobs and based on a book by Patrick deWitt, who also wrote the screenplay for this adaptation. The story follows a wealthy mother and son (Pfeiffer and Hedges) as they move to Paris in search of some sort of meaning to their directionless lives. When in Paris, the two find themselves in a variety of odd situations, such as having a seance to communicate with their cat that ran away.
Immediately after this film concluded, I found myself vaguely entertained and slightly underwhelmed by it. It was just a fine movie that didn’t blow me away. However, as I’ve reflected upon the film since I saw it, I found myself disliking it more and more. By no means is it an offensively bad movie, but it consistently offers nothing so that I genuinely don’t have much of a reaction to it.
This lack of impact from the movie can be attributed to its failure to commit to anything.
“French Exit” is desperately trying to capture audiences’ interests with unexpected moments and turns in the plot. However, it’s precisely because of its frequent changes that it doesn’t excel at anything it tries to be. There is never an established tonal base for the film to build off of, it just randomly moves in whatever direction with the hope that it stumbles upon something that works. At various moments it tries to be a mystery, a comedy and a drama, but these attempts are so thin that the film ultimately ends up being nothing. It dips its toes in many different styles, tones and story directions, but it doesn’t commit to any of them, making the overall experience as confusing as it was unengaging.
The cast members were all perfectly fine, but they didn’t provide anything that surprising. Pfeiffer has an excellent sense of charisma about her, and she’s able to capture the viewer’s attention whenever she’s on screen, but all of that can be attributed to her being Michelle Pfeiffer. The character wasn’t written well, nor is there anything specifically amazing about her performance. The same can be said for Hedges, who is giving the same good-to-great performance he always gives, but his character is so bland that he never really gets a chance to shine.
Macdonald’s character in “French Exit” is a minor one. She has a couple really solid moments, but ultimately the character is given very little to do and has a small impact on the film as a whole.
Overall, “French Exit” failed to provide anything worth talking about. It’s unfocused and not very well written. The story is bland, and the stellar cast is given pretty much nothing to work with. There was potential here for a great mother-and-son story, but the film gets caught up in so many unnecessary story threads that it fails to explore anything in the depth it needs. I didn’t hate this movie by any means, but in a few years, I will definitely forget I ever watched it.