This new dramedy from Azazel Jacobs seems to be caught betweena starring vehicle for Michelle Pfeiffer and an arch, goofy artificiality.
French Exit earned the actress of Mother! (2017), The Family and Dark Shadows a recent Golden Globe nomination for her shavings into icy hauteur of a widowed Manhattan socialite who takes an exhaustive entitlement with no enthusiasm for life on a transatlantic voyage.
In this adaptation of Patrick de Witt’s ‘tragedy of manners’ 2018 book an idiosyncratic absurdism emerges as Pfeiffer’s sexagenarian Frances Price faces an embarrassing financial insolvency in plowing through the fortune of her late husband, Frank. Her plan ‘was to die before the money ran out, but I kept and kept on not dying.’
His spirit appears to inhabit a black cat dubbed ‘Small Frank’ (voiced by Tracy Letts) in tow with her hangdog twenty-something son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges of Manchester By The Sea). After selling the belongs and filling a satchel with euros.
In looking back at this ‘Aunt Mame’ type Frances is seen at the boarding school of a 12-year-old Malcolm (Eddie Holland) to whisk him away. “What about my clothes, he says. I’ll buy you new ones.” Later, the young adult finds it difficult to explain to her about his proposal to girlfriend Susan (Imogen Poots). She’s at a loss over this kind of devotion for someone not inclined to be very doting at all.
Offbeat shenanigans ensue in the City of Lights where Frances moves intothe flat of friend Joan (Susan Coyle) in gratis as this bossy lady with a martini and cigarette is befriended by a lonely widow Madame Reyard (an amusing, even touching Valerie Mahaffey). Also, figuring into the script by de Witt and Jacobs is Madeleine, a clairvoyant and an affable private eye Julius (Isaach De Bankole) as Small Frank goes missing. Even Susan turns up with a new beau (Daniel di Tomasso) as certain very charitable acts raise a red flag.
A few chortles and smiles may be released as French Exit utilizes a polished production with the editing not really hindered by a noticeably measured pace. Jacobs can’t elevate the milieu as the central familial relationship is diffused by its ensemble inclusion. One may react to it all even with a little concluding emotionality in the withering fashion Pfeiffer often exudes around her moribund son. Especially opposite an impolite, smug waiter that lets her spritz up a table bouquet with a personal feckless fragrance.