Diane Lane Arnaud Viard Alec Baldwin
Warning! After you see this film, make sure you’re able to go to the finest French restaurant you can to prolong the sensorial mood you will be in for as long as possible. This is a film that Lost in Translation should have been (my apologies, Sofia, but I could never understand two people staying in their hotel rooms the entire time they are in exotic Tokyo). Paris Can Wait is a two-day road trip through Provence on the way to Paris. It’s a sensual journey with a charming, complimenting, gastronomic guide and wine connoisseur. As an aside, I am puzzled by the cinematographer’s decision to film the lush French landscape in a washed out color palette.
On this filmic journey, you must identify with Anne (Lane) in the story to savor all the delights. Jacques (Viard), a colleague of Anne’s husband Michael (Baldwin), offers to drive her to Paris when she is advised not to fly because of a cold; Michael is on his way to Budapest. So Michael goes on to his meeting in Budapest, and it’s decided that Anne will rejoin him in Paris, their final destination in Europe. “You’ll be there by dinnertime”, says Michael.
What follows is enchanting. Jacques is playful and flirtatious, which takes Cleveland-born Anne aback. As soon as they drive off, he says, “Let’s pretend we don’t know where we’re going.” The rest of the trip—which takes 2½ days—is indulgent in ways she has never experienced before. It’s a fine advertisement for French men, because Jacques is just as respectful of Anne as he is flirtatious and playful. His compliments are genuinely framed in her abilities (in photography, in fixing a car), as well as her appearance.
And this is more than a sexually teasing romp. During their time together, Anne and Jacques go beyond gourmet delights, as they make their way through Provence and visit ancient landmarks, Lumier and textile museums, a fresh market, and elegant hotels. He contrasts the French and Americans with pronouncements like, “In France, our happiest memories are around the table” and “Americans always have to have a reason” rather than simply enjoying some of life’s simple pleasures. There are emotional self-revelations from each that create empathy between them for their losses in life.
They do reach Paris, but true to the title, it can wait while Anne and Jacques savor their time together in a French Garden of Eden with its unique blend of history, art, architecture, gastronomy, and landscape.
Writer/director Eleanor Coppola (married to the notable Francis Ford) introduced the film in Austin, which I attended at the SXSW Film Festival, and indicated that it is autobiographically based. After telling her friend about the trip she had made, the friend advised Eleanor to make a film about it. Her background was in the documentary genre (impressively, the award-winning Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which she co-directed), but when she was searching for a director for this film, Francis asked, “Why don’t you direct it?” It is an impressive work of art and makes you wonder if/why Eleanor kept her lamp hidden all these years.
Eleanor and her casting director, Constance Demontoy, deserve praise for securing Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard for the starring roles. Their chemistry is palpable, and both are appealing in such a way that we get the impression the actors are playing themselves, really honorable people with joie de vivre.
If you wish you could go to France, but can’t, Paris Can Wait is a perfect vicarious substitute.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland