There are so many Coppolas in the film industry, and so many of them have legitimately distinguished themselves, that it is difficult to level accusations of nepotism against them. Paris Can Wait is a feature debut so bad that one wants to be able to accuse Eleanor Coppola (Coda: Thirty Years Later) of something, but she is an accomplished documentarian. Paris Can Wait is proof that not every 81-year-old should turn their hand to narrative filmmaking; sometimes it’s okay not to try.
After her movie producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin, The Boss Baby) flies off to Budapest just before their scheduled holiday, Anne (Diane Lane, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) arranges passage to Paris with his partner, Jacques (Arnaud Viard). Jacques decides to take the scenic route, and wine and dine Anne repeatedly along the way.
Paris Can Wait is based on several spurious concepts: that Jacques is charming, that French people are naturally inclined to adultery, that adultery is great when French people commit it, and that a woman will tolerate just about anything in order to avoid creating a scene (that last one may have some basis in fact for some women). Paris Can Wait comes across as a charmless instalment of The Trip series with no reason behind it. A drive through the French countryside could conceivably be reward in itself, but there’s literally no drive for this journey from point A to B except that Jacques wants a piece of his partner’s wife and feels entitled to it. And we’re supposed to be not just entertained by this concept, but also to approve of it.
Coppola asks the scenery of France to do the hard work for her, shooting picturesque locations in as pedestrian a way as possible. She continues the theme by making Anne take close up photographs of scenery on a deceptively expensive digital camera, including literally everything that she eats. In this way, we know that Anne is creating art, and this gives her the character note of being both stifled and frustrated by her husband who doesn’t understand what she’s capable of. Whether there is subtext afoot (Coppola wrote the script as well) is up to the viewer to decide — but it is not difficult to see that the photos are both not very good and also lazily integrated into the film footage itself.
With no chemistry between the two leads — one of whom is a transparent saboteur with no respect for either his partner or his quarry — and a jaunty score so generic that it reads like parody care of Laura Karpman (TV’s Underground), there’s little to recommend about a project that represents the vulgarity of money more than it does camaraderie, culinary enjoyment, or even the simple thrill of travel.
Paris Can Wait could have waited forever and the world would have been no poorer for it. Ill-conceived and clumsily executed, this is the sort of film that coasts on the names involved and is too indifferent to care if audiences actually like it. If a rich Frenchman of limited acquaintance has his car break down by the side of the road and tries to have a picnic with you, get out of there; you may be trapped in a bad film, with Alec Baldwin forever only a voice on the other end of the phone.
Paris Can Wait opened in Australian cinemas on July 20, 2017.
Directed by: Eleanor Coppola.
Starring: Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard and Alec Baldwin.