A confused tone and inconsistent pacing leave Azazel Jacobs’ absurdist comedy, at times, a little too absurd for its own good.
French Exit follows the trans-continental exploits of widowed New York socialite Francis Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her adult son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) on their not-so-temporary sojourn to Paris after Francis is walled off from accessing her deceased husband’s estate.
Despite their unceremonious departure, issues of home seem to follow them, with Francis facing a persistent state of nihilism, Malcolm dealing with a crumbling engagement, and both of them confronting the legacy of their relationship with Frank, the long-deceased family patriarch who has been inexplicably reincarnated as their cat.
Highlights include the small ensemble of wacky supporting characters, especially Mme Reynard (Valerie Mahaffey) – a fellow widowed New York expat – and Pfeiffer’s performance, which is well deserving of her recent Golden Globe nomination.
But while Jacobs (The Lovers, Terri) and screenwriter Patrick deWitt have clearly made every effort to retain the dicey and oddball energy of deWitt’s novel of the same name, their comedy of manners conjures only a shred or two of empathetic mother and son moments, and 110-minutes of lukewarm detachment.
Reviewed by Patrick McKenzie