Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Eleanor Coppola

Stars: Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard, Alec Baldwin.

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It’s one of those vagaries of film distribution that we sometimes get two films released at the same time with similar plots and ideas. Within the space of a couple of weeks we get two road trip movies featuring two people on a journey through some of the most picturesque areas of Europe, sampling the history, culture and food of the region as they travel. One is the hilarious The Trip To Spain, the third film in the series featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden sampling restaurants and local food for a newspaper whilst cracking gags and doing impressions of Michael Caine and the like. The second is the rather slight and clichéd romantic comedy Paris Can Wait.

Paris Can Wait is the debut narrative feature film from Eleanor Coppola, the 80-year-old wife of Oscar winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (of The Godfather trilogy fame), who is better known for her work in documentaries, like Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which documented her husband’s trials and tribulations while filming his epic Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now in the Philippines. She has also made a couple of making of short documentaries about a couple of his other films. Paris Can Wait has been loosely inspired by her own experiences when she accompanied her husband to Cannes in the 70s. While he was tied up with business talks and deals she took a trip to Paris. But where fact leaves off and the fiction takes over Coppola leaves to the audience’s imagination.

Anne (played by the always reliable Diane Lane) and her film producer husband Michael Lockwood (Alex Baldwin) are in Cannes for the annual Film Festival. He has to fly to Budapest for discussions about a forthcoming film project. Because of an ear infection she is unable to fly, so rather than accompany him she decides to take a train to Paris and wait for him in their hotel. However, Michael’s business associate Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive her to Paris. They head off in his vintage blue Peugeot.

But what should be an eight-hour drive turns into a leisurely two-day journey through the sights of regional France as Jacques takes a scenic detour. The roguish Jacques is the quintessential Frenchman, full of Gallic wit and charm, joie de vivre, and a huge appetite for life and sophisticated tastes. But it soon becomes clear that Jacques also hopes to sleep with Anne along the way. For her part Anne is flattered by Jacques’ attention, something she doesn’t get from Michael. Jacques becomes something of a sounding board for her frustrations. She enjoys the road trip, the historical sights and the food and wine along the way. She also enjoys the banter, and although she slowly warms to Jacques’ company she is wary of his motivations.

Paris Can Wait is essentially a two-hander that serves us many of the usual cliches of the road journey. It is something of a journey of self-discovery for Anne, and the film also explores the unworldliness of the American abroad as well as French culture. The film has been handsomely shot by cinematographer Crystel Fournier (Girlhood, Tomboy, etc). There is some great scenery of the French countryside, the rolling green fields and hills, the historical sites, and plenty of swank hotels and restaurants.

But the slight narrative, which apparently took some six years to write, is a little too cliched and Coppola’s pacing of the material is uneven and languid. Coppola maintains an unhurried pace, and a light touch throughout, and the film never really moves out of first gear. The flirty dialogue between the pair is ripe with innuendo, but lacks any real zing or insight.

Lane, who has gone the scenic route before in films like Under The Tuscan Sun, is good here and she has a warm and likeable presence. She brings a relaxed charm to her performance, but she also reveals Anne’s vulnerabilities and fears. Although Jacques is a slightly sleazy character Viard manages to infuse him with a slightly sympathetic edge and wit. This is essentially a two hander, with a moderate contribution from Baldwin. He is good in a small role as Anne’s driven and distracted film producer husband.
The film gives audiences the vicarious pleasure of travelling through the gorgeous countryside of France, but basically you can’t wait for the journey to come to an end. Lane does solid work here, but is let down by the lacklustre script and a lack of emotional engagement with the two central characters. With a name like Coppola behind the camera you would have expected a work of more substance.

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