Michelle Pfeiffer dives into her most spirited role in years, playing a widowed New York socialite who shifts her and her son’s mundane life to Paris in the utterly surreal comedy, French Exit.
Pfeiffer needs no introduction. She has enjoyed decades as a foxy powerhouse of the Hollywood scene, most famous for her outlandish portrayal of Catwoman in 1992s Batman Returns. Lucas Hedges is currently making waves on the silver screen with appearances in some of the most talked-about projects of the last decade, notably Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) and Manchester By The Sea (2016), receiving acclaim for both.
In French Exit, the pair play a mother and son who have had only themselves for a while now, as Pfeiffer’s character, Frances, lost her husband years prior. The story revolves around what this kind of personality does when their entire lavish Manhattan lifestyle is lost, as well as a study of the American socialite family.
The most enjoyable element of the admittedly thinly-plotted script has to be the writing of Pfeiffer’s character. The writing, coupled with her vibrant performance, makes the overall experience far better than if another actress had taken on this challenging role. On paper, her son, played by Hedges, can come off very thin on any interesting personality traits. His main one is that he’s aimless and reliant on the now dwindling family money and stature. However, he has yet to give a bad performance, so despite the character being uninteresting, his performance is perfectly professional and acceptable for this type of story.
French Exit is the kind of film that immediately hooks you in from the get-go with quirky dialogue to get you excited for what may come. The opening act is enjoyable and features comedic gems, although it is very grounded. Another element is included halfway through that adds a needed injection of silliness to teeter the film to the realm of absurdity. Once this element is introduced, the story runs the risk of going off the rails and forgetting its heart.
It’s a mother and son driven narrative, as well as an inspection of the desperate loneliness that some people can feel when their only exposure to the world is through a rose-tinted champagne glass. Take that all away, and what are you left with? These are the questions the movie asks, and cleverly avoids giving satisfying answers, as sometimes there aren’t any.
French Exit is an enjoyable film that is relatively low impact and inoffensive. All of the acting talents make up for a script short of any lasting elements of intrigue or interest. This absurdist comedy demands attention early on but gradually loses its hook.
A “French exit” – also known as a “French leave” – is a slang term for leaving an engagement or situation without warning or without saying goodbye.