Three-time Academy Award nominee and bonafide Hollywood star Michelle Pfeiffer gives the performance of her career in the eccentric and whimsical drama French Exit. And for those who are seeking something different this one really delivers.
“My plan was to die before the money ran out,” says 60-year-old penniless Manhattan socialite Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer), but things didn’t go as planned.
Her husband Franklin has been dead for 12 years and with his vast inheritance gone, she cashes in the last of her possessions and resolves to live out her twilight days anonymously in a borrowed apartment in Paris, accompanied by her directionless son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) and a cat named Small Frank — who may or may not embody the spirit of Frances’s dead husband.
Director Azazel Jacobs dives into the surreal with French Exit, a quirky and unique comedy, which is based on the best-selling novel from author Patrick deWitt, who also adapts his own work for the big screen, and the result is an off-kilter, somewhat strange and enjoyably funny comedy of a woman who has to come to terms with her life and who is seeking ‘something’ of a fresh start. Jacobs’ perspective with this film focuses clearly on character, and he heavily bends into his narrative’s odd leanings and the result is an intimate study of character, class, money and co-dependence.
Giving one incredible performance within French Exit is three-time Academy Award nominee and Hollywood megastar Michelle Pfeiffer, and this is a performance from the actress like never we’ve seen before. As an actress, Pfeiffer is a performer who can do it all. Her career has always seen her right at the head of the pack in Hollywood with roles in grand productions including Batman Returns, Scarface, The Witches of Eastwick and Stardust, along with more recent works including Dark Shadows and Ant-Man and the Wasp. And she’s always fantastic in everything she does. But it’s in French Exit that the full scale of her talents truly comes out and this is one incredible performance on behalf of this phenomenal actress.
As Frances Price, a widowed eccentric who has now lost her fortune she sets out to reinvent herself in Paris, away from the glamourous circles that she previously lived in and it’s in this new environment, with a new cast of strangers, that things get interesting for Frances. This is a performance where you never know what is going to happen next, and Pfeiffer teases out a dry sense of humour in Frances’ actions and behaviours and it’s fun to see her take on Paris in her own unique way. Frances could best be described as a woman with a plan, and she intends to stick to it, and the results in a narrative that pulls you in many different directions.
In viewing French Exit, I very much saw this film as an exploration of the idea of co-dependence. This mostly is shown through Frances strange relationship with her adult son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), who is forced into accompanying his mother to Paris, as she simply can’t exist without him. While their relationship may be odd, there is a deep sense of companionship and trust held between each of them and this element of the film makes it that much more interesting from a narrative perspective.
French Exit is an intriguing and very different kind of comedy and for those who are seeking something out-of-the-usual, they’ll well be rewarded with this very original curiosity and the superb performance from Michelle Pfeiffer which anchors it.
Image: Sony Pictures