Seeing an 81 year-old female director in her film debut was one impetus for seeing “Paris Can Wait”. Seeing a woman listened to, appreciated, and romanced old-style was another. A “chick flick” for the over-fifty-set this may be, but Diane Lane brings her character, Anne, to the forefront. She is a woman, who has stepped back, has often been stepped over, but has never been stepped on. Yes, she is financially privileged, used to fine service, and is loved by her second husband, played briefly by Alec Baldwin. Anne has lost a baby son, and raised a loving daughter, owned a dress shop, and dabbles at photography. There is nothing remarkable about her.
Using the structure of a road trip, director Eleanor Coppola
sets up a temptation for Anne. Will she or won’t she succumb to the wiles of our dapper Frenchman, Jacque?
Jacque is played deliciously by Artaud Viard. Flirty, warm, attentive, he is a charmer who understands that his colleague, Anne’s husband, prioritizes his work over pleasure. Their marriage often plays as afterthought. Anne is not discontent with Michael, but she enjoys the attention of the irrepressible sensualist, who seems to have a coterie of women fawning over him. He takes the time to savor all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes and touches. Anne is intrigued and rather awkwardly beguiled.
Here, Lane is perfect as the a woman: unstartled, practical; and yet, instinctually imaginative. In this imaginary land, she is enjoying the wandering, and to a point, we do to. Some sequences of road travel do seem to over dally.
Scuptuous food platings and river walks below Roman ruins fill the screen. There is a capricious picnic amid car troubles, and metronomic flattery amid confidences shared. The atmosphere is light, but possibly transformative. French “joie de vivre” is the tempo.
Some of the most knowing intimacies of a twenty-year-old marriage are humorously portrayed. Michael lets a phone call interrupt kissing his wife, and he depends on her for the details of his inseam measurements and his sock pairings. Business calls during their meals have Anne explaining that she knows it is rude behavior, but she is used to it. Jacques tells her that she should not be. And the game is on.
The game is about romancing. Mozart, truffle season, heaps of roses, creamy chocolates and Jacques’ famous, ” Let’s pretend we don’t know where we are going, or who we are?” He gives Anne the pet name, “Brulee”. Creamily, creme de la cream, evocative!
There are hints of mean testosterone in Jacque when he discloses an indiscretion of Michael’s, and we wonder who will pay for all the cheese, fruit, wine, and watercress. Even a little jealousy is tried as Jacque introduces Anne to Martine, who tells her that “You will never forget your travels with Jacque. Trust me!”
This is an easy summer flick to take your husband to when “you are not used to feeling this way”…meaning romanced!