Hmm… EAT PRAY LOVE (2010). Is that the easiest aesthetic to compare? American middle-aged woman goes on a vacation across Europe to experience what the varying cultures have to offer and what have you. But give this movie some credit, I actually feel a tad excited to see it. Probably moreso than I should admit.
For those that don’t know, I have a soft-spot for rom-coms. Practically raised on them. Thanks, Mom. So as it happens, some of my favorite films happen to be rom-coms. LOVE, ACTUALLY (2003), SERENDIPITY (2001), NOTTING HILL (1999), IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), the list goes on. Even modern ones aren’t so bad. MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (2016) and EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY (2017) are some solid ones. So whenever a seemingly-good one comes along, I get a little antsy to see it.
Although, strangely, this doesn’t look like a typical rom-com. It looks like it’s about this semi-neglected wife and as she’s on vacation with her all-important husband, it’s decided that his French friend will take her to Paris and they make a bunch of pit-stops along the way. Maybe they strike up a romantic relationship, the trailer wisely doesn’t reveal that bit of info, but I’m actually kind of hoping that it remains platonic throughout. I doubt it, but it never hurts to hope, right?
Anywho, let’s take a look at the on-screen talent. Starring, we have the ageless and ever-talented Diane Lane (BATMAN V SUPERMAN , INSIDE OUT , UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN , and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE ), as well as Arnaud Viard (known for French films) and Alec Baldwin (THE BOSS BABY , STILL ALICE , THE DEPARTED , and the upcoming M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE ).
Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Eleanor Coppola, known mostly for documentaries and shorts. Composing the score is Laura Karpman, known for BLACK NATIVITY (2013), CARRIE (2002), and video game GUARDIANS OF MIDDLE EARTH. Finally, the cinematographer is Crystel Fournier, known for French films.
Overall, I’m obviously not expecting anything ground-breaking, but I’ll settle for likable characters and pretty scenery. Something’s telling me I’ll get half of that in spades.
This is my honest opinion of: PARIS CAN WAIT
Anne (Diane Lane) is on a business vacation with her all-important husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), who has been glued to his cellphone with business calls, practically neglecting his wife, who is eager to go to Paris. However, yet another business call takes Michael elsewhere, but one of Michael’s french business associates and friend, Jacques (Arnaud Viard), volunteers to drive Anne to Paris. Despite some hesitation, everyone agrees. Of course, Jac doesn’t take her directly to Paris. Instead, he takes her to many historical sites and restaurants along the way.
If you’ve seen the trailer, then you can probably decide whether or not this movie is for you. On a personal level, I liked it more than I didn’t, but it’s definitely got some flaws that are impossible to overlook.
I might as well just tackle the main problem with the movie, as it is very much front and center. The whole story is basically that Jac promises to take Anne to Paris, who really wants to go there, but instead makes a ton of detours to take her to eat and constantly delays her from her destination.
You see the problem yet? All this woman wants to do is go to Paris, but this dude keeps taking her on dates. The worst part of it is, Anne just goes along with it, barely ever voicing frustration. Any normal person would be like, “Dude, take me to Paris, or I’m calling the cops and telling them that you’re kidnapping me!” Or even simply calling a cab incognito and making a run for it. The first thing he does is makes her book a room in a hotel and takes her to eat in a fancy restaurant. During that scene, he starts getting really personal, and asks Anne if she’s happy in her marriage and he even mentions a story of how Michael gave an aspiring young actress his expensive watch. That watch was given by Anne as a gift and he told her that he lost that watch. Oh, I am perfectly aware that this scene is supposed to function as fuel for our disdain for Michael, but because the previous set of dialog involved him asking to her face if she was happy in her marriage, it comes off as an obvious means to get Anne distant from her husband and leave a door open for Jac to walk through later on. It’s pretty douchie to ask personal questions and then mention a personal story.
Get this, not only is that dinner something that she ends up paying for by him putting the food on her room tab, but he makes her pay for his hotel room too! Why? Because he doesn’t have a credit card, and he has a business deal that will result in him getting cash and he’ll pay her back when they reach Paris. Clearly, Anne must be outraged and throwing a justified tantrum over his actions, right? WRONG! Oh sure, she gives a disapproving look, like her kid just called her a doodie-face, but that’s the extent of it. She forgives him for his intrusive questions. She forgives him for making her pay for his room and the dinner. And this pattern repeats throughout the entire movie. They constantly make detours and he constantly makes her eat at restaurants, and I can only assume that she’s constantly paying for all of them. There’s a scene where his car breaks down and, get this, he’s all care free and wants to picnic, killing off probably a good hour or two before deciding to check the car for what made it break down. Go freakin’ figure though, Anne knows cars and fixes it with her pantyhose (broken fan belt and apparently, tightening the pantyhose can be a poor-man’s fix to get it to the shop).
I guarantee you, if anyone acted like a real human being in this movie, it’d be ten minutes long. Anne would refuse to go to any detours and insist on going to Paris that day. Even if she was weird enough to be suckered into going to the hotel and that dinner, she would’ve let him stay in that hotel to work off the debt while she called a cab to take her to Paris. No one would ever let this crap drag this long.
I know everything I just said would be enough argument for anyone to think that this movie isn’t for them and will skip it. Not that I would argue, but do I agree with that? Eh… not really. Here’s how I survived this movie. I took it by individual scenes, rather than the entire package. The entire package will make people angry and call out this movie for how terribly written it is. But like I said, I opted to see the movie scene by scene. By doing that, the movie isn’t half bad.
The true star of the film is the cinematography. The opening shot is a simple slow zoom out of a beautiful sunny landscape with Anne looking on. While that’s happening, we hear an off-screen Michael on his phone talking about how he’s not going to be able to go to Paris or something of that nature and you see this ever so slight twitch in Anne’s shoulder, clearly overhearing the conversation and not happy with what he’s saying. It’s a brilliant moment. We don’t see her eyes or face, but we know exactly what she’s feeling.
Beyond that, this movie’s background is pure eye-candy and borderline exploitative. I didn’t mind, of course, because it’s better than a CGI backdrop or sound stage when neither would have been necessary. France’s nature shots, the architecture, the art, it’s all undeniably gorgeous to look at. And the food. Let’s talk about this food from hell. I went into this movie at 10:30 in the morning. I did not eat breakfast. I already mentioned how Anne and Jac eat a lot and that the cinematography is amazing. Can you see where I’m going with this? The food porn is pure torture. Obviously, I mean this in the best way possible, but when you’re hungry and looking at the most delicious food, the manipulation is too easy to get ensnared by. But once again, the food is shot like it was in a porno. It looks delicious. Even though I don’t know what the food tastes like, I’m sitting there imagining what that it does taste like and I really want to eat with them.
And when you take the individual scenes and block out the entirety of the story, Lane is a damn delightful and engaging actress. Her character is stupid as hell, but if you can ignore that, then Lane is great. You see bouts of a great performance, and even though her reaction shots aren’t realistic in the least, she knows how to get the emotions across. That may be of little comfort to most, but I still enjoyed her performance for when the scene called for her to be a good actor… even in the scenes that demand intense emotion that feels incredibly out of place. Viard is devilishly charming at times too. You do get this impression that he means well, despite his creepy actions and if you’ve enjoyed the cinematography in the film, it’s his actions that allow us to get eyefuls of everything, so yay for that.
Even the comedy shines through pretty well. Remember the broken-down car scene I mentioned earlier? There’s this amazing line after the picnic and Anne’s looking through the car’s engine to determine what’s wrong. Jac’s sitting comfortably in the car like a douche bag and Anne asks him a question about the car – I forget what – and he responds with, “I wouldn’t know,” to which Anne retorts with, “Of course not. There’s nothing to eat in here.” Hilarious line. And there is enough charm to make the scenes enjoyable to watch.
If I heard someone say that this was a bad movie, I would find myself unable to disagree. But if someone walked out saying that they liked it, I would agree with that too. Perhaps I was a sucker for the imagery and the acting, but even I can’t deny how horribly stupid the main characters are and how much this infects the overall story. I won’t revisit this movie, but I suppose if all you wanted to see was the scenery and get entranced by yummy food, then the only advice I can give is to ignore the idiot characters and maybe you’ll have an easier time with this than most. Other than that, I don’t really recommend seeing it in theaters. Maybe a rental if you’re that eager, but even if you skipped out on this movie entirely, you’re not missing much. I’m sure not going to see it again.
My honest rating for PARIS CAN WAIT: a weak 3/5