In recent years a new genre has emerged in cinema. The post-war baby boomers are getting older and have an insatiable appetite for movie outings; and they want to see films that tell their stories. Dames Helen Mirren, Judy Dench and Maggie Smith can attest to that, as they are the poster girls of the genre. The idea of people simply being old has become outdated. This ageing majority has a significant voice, and one that is culturally and socially relevant.
This film was written and directed by septuagenarian Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now) and mother of writer/director Sophia Coppola (Lost In Translation). Eleanor’s husband likely inspired this story about the wife of a workaholic film producer who never has time to go on holiday.
While her stars weigh in on the young side for the genre, the timeless elegance and pedestrian pace of the film fits right in.
At the end of the Cannes Film Festival, Anne (played by a luminously cool Diane Lane) and her film producer husband Michael (the perma-suave Alec Baldwin) are preparing to fly to Paris for a much needed holiday. Michael is busy on the phone having problems with his next film project, and it seems inevitable that he won’t be making it to Paris in a hurry. To add to their trouble, Anne has an ear infection and is advised not to fly. Enter Michael’s business partner Jacques, who is just about to drive to Paris himself, and insists that Anne travel with him. Michael reluctantly agrees before flying to Morocco to fix the issues on his production.
Jacques is an outrageous flirt and something of a French cliché. He has an extreme amount of ‘joie de vivre’, especially where food and women are concerned. He tastes plants that he finds on the side of the road and extolls their virtues with feverish passion. There are more than a few eye-rolling moments, the first of which as the trip begins and Jacques tells Anne that they should forget themselves completely on the journey. Groan.
Jacques buys Anne baguettes. He buys her ear-drops. He leaves her stranded at a petrol station long enough for her to haughtily flick through the pages of French Vogue, just so he could nip down the road to a friend’s garden and get her some pink roses – her favourite. He meets many friends along the way, all of whom are women and all of whom eye her up like she is lucky to spend time with this man who once charmed them.
She tells him that chocolate is her vice and he says that she is like a chocolate creme brûlée, so Brûlée becomes her nickname. Some might find it all a bit nausea-inducing, but this viewer found herself happily distracted by the array of fabulous food on display.
Anne does go through something of an awakening. She is at a crossroads in her life, with her daughter having left home and gone to university, and she is also looking for a new career. On the journey, Anne reconnects with a painful memory from her past. If nothing else, Jacques will help her out of a rut and make her feel alive again. Whether or not she falls for Jacques and his cacophony of charms is not important. It is all about Anne reconnecting with herself.
While Paris Can Wait is on the light side in terms of plot, it is well cast and a pleasure to watch, and serves as a delightful piece of Francophile propaganda. They visit beautiful museums, restaurants and cathedrals, making it a bit like being a tourist without having to leave the house.
Charming as it is, this film is blighted by an appalling soft jazz soundtrack that would be more at home in an elevator than on a movie screen. Still, my husband is half French and this road trip from Provence to Paris had me hankering after our child- free days in France.
* Paris Can Wait opens in NZ on July 20.