French Exit

By Moira Jean Sullivan

French Exit is an Irish/Canadian/US coproduction from 2020 playing at the Landmark Theaters. It is directed by Azazel Jacobs and based on a novel by Patrick deWitt. The fact that Michelle Pfieffer is in the film is the real pull and appeal of this independent production and she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Frances Price, a Manhattan upper class widow whose husband has left her without any financial security. She has to discretely sell off the furniture and valuables in the apartment to survive and move with her 24-year-old son Malcolm (Lukas Hedges). Pieces do fall into place in her early 60’s and she is lent Joan’s empty apartment in Paris for a getaway.

The assorted characters in the film that back up the story accompany the largess of Pfeiffer and are admirable co-players together with Hedges as her deadpan son Malcolm. After passage by ocean liner, Frances and Malcolm arrive and for a moment the relationship with a young man and a 60 plus old relative crossing the Atlantic recalls Hedges playing opposite Meryl Streep as her nephew in Stephen Soderbergh’s Let them All Talk - also from 2020.

Malcolm has seemingly left behind his girlfriend Susan (Imogen Poots) but isn’t able to acknowledge her importance. A clairvoyant passenger , Madeline the Medium (Danielle MacDonald) is on the ocean liner who can invoke the spirit of France’s dead husband embodied in a black cat she is smuggling into France. A note is delivered to Joan’s apartment from a neighbor, Mme. Renard (Valerie Mahaffey), who happens to know Frances. She and Malcilm are invited to a party where she is the only guest.

The huge wad of Euros from the apartment sales that Frances disperses to strangers in the park or waiters slowly begins to diminish as more and more people fill Joan’s apartment - who also returns suddenly. She handsomely pays Julius (Isaach De BankolĂ©), a private detective, to find Madeline to learn more about the spirit of her husband.

In their new country, Frances and Malcolm struggle with their memory of husband and father that has left an imprint on them. In their time in Paris bolstered by new friends, they have emotional work to do. The melancholic sharp tonged and elegant Frances helps her son to face his life as she prepares to exit it. I wish there was more time to spend with these delightful characters, but the beauty of this film is how they all show up to create a meaningful but limited cinematic experience.

© 2021 - Moira Jean Sullivan - Air Date: 04/21/21
Movie Magazine International