Another Coppola steps into the spotlight, but this one proves herself better at crafting a travelogue than a film.
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Anne (Diane Lane) is in Cannes with her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), a workaholic movie producer unable to put his phone down for five minutes. Their vacation to Paris has been delayed as Michael must stop over in Budapest, a plan which hits a bump when Anne can’t board the plane due to an ear infection. Michael’s French business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) is headed for Paris anyway, and offers to drive Anne, to which they both agree. But what was meant to be a short car trip stretches into a leisurely journey, leading Anne to grow suspicious over Jacque’s flirtatious nature and his use of her credit card on every meal and hotel.
Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford and mother of Sofia) has spent most of her life documenting behind the scenes of her famous family’s films – most notoriously Heart of Darkness, which exposed the troubled production of Apocalypse Now. But now, at 81, she’s made her first foray into fiction, writing and directing Paris Can Wait. The result is about as far away from the works of her kin as you can get. Paris Can Wait is an airy, sort-of romance mostly devoid of the standard plot and character development you’d expect of a film – even a sense of purpose seems absent.
This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as Paris Can Wait is still quite a pleasant time. It’s mostly saved due to the charisma and chemistry of its two leads, particularly Diane Lane, who so naturally slides into the role of neglected yet optimistically-minded wife, and is given a bit of emotional depth when she reveals a somewhat tragic backstory. Coppola is certainly confident behind the camera, capturing the beautiful scenery of the French countryside in wonderfully warm shots, and has a very keen eye for the mouth-watering dishes and desserts the pair are served in their very frequent restaurant stopovers.
But the visual goodies and Jacques’ ruminations on wine and culture can only amuse for so long. With so little in the way of conflict or interesting ideas or… anything actually happening, it turns into a bit of drag. It’s not long before we, like Anne, just want to hurry up and get to Paris already. It’s hard to shake the sense that the film is a disguise for everyone involved to take a paid vacation across France, since it feels for the most part like a feature-length travel advertisement for the country.
The most criminal waste here is Alec Baldwin, who’s given what amounts to less than five minutes screen time and little to do other than express his jealousy of Anne and Jacques spending time together over the phone, despite barely seeming to notice her when he is around.
Given Michael’s prominence in film, one can’t help but wonder if there’s an autobiographical angle to Eleanor Coppola’s story – surely she hasn’t been in a similar situation with Francis Ford? And what would he be thinking when he sees this? Once again, the real substance lurks behind the scenes for Eleanor.
Paris Can Wait is available in Australian cinemas from July 19
Image courtesy of Transmission Films