FlixChatter Review: FRENCH EXIT (2020)

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I saw this movie a while ago but I just kept getting distracted by other films to finally got a chance to review it. The story is based on Patrick deWitt’s elite-society satire novel of the same name, with the author himself also penning the screenplay. Now, not having read the book, I can’t compare the two, though on paper I could see how the premise could potentially work as a movie. Whether the book translates well onto screen is another matter entirely however,  but one thing for sure, Michelle Pfeiffer is perfectly cast as the protagonist. Frances Price is an elegant and eccentric Manhattan widow who after a mere dozen years after her husband’s death has ran out of her inheritance. She manages to convert whatever left off her assets into cash before she jets off to Paris to stay in her fellow socialite girlfriend’s apartment, taking her sullen son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) and her black cat in tow. The oddly named cat Small Frank proves to be a significant plot point that takes an even bizarre turn later in the movie.

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Frances is the kind of woman who doesn’t seem to let anything ruffles her… she didn’t break down or cry even when her accountant informs her that all the money’s gone. The role seems to be made for Le Pfeiffer who’s effortlessly charming and can beguile you with simply a look or a subtle gesture. She also looks amazing in her opulent attire, I especially love her fringed black dress and fur-lined camel coat. There’s always an air of mystery about her and I have to admit that’s what helps keeps me engaged in this movie. Hardly anything happens and some of the bizarre things that do happen, such as when they encounter a clairvoyant (Danielle Macdonald) on the ship, it’s done in such a nonchalant way that one can’t help but just shrugs it off.

The mother/son pairing of Pfeiffer and Hedges seems interesting at first, given how defiantly passive he is. He seems devoid of emotion as he casually dumps his fiancée Susan (an underutilized Imogen Poots) to accompany his mother. After a time, Malcolm grows more baffling and deeply unaffecting, and I wish there’s a better chemistry between the two. Now, Malcolm’s dullness is more of the fault of the script than Hedges’ acting. In fact, I think all the actors did their best to elevate the material and its skeleton thin plot. Director Azazel Jacobs peppers the film with lovely Parisian scenery, but it can only distract me for so long before I long for something meaningful in this movie. In the third act, suddenly the small apartment is crowded with people Frances meets along the way. Valerie Mahaffey as Frances’ quirky French neighbor Madame Reynard, Isaach De Bankolé as the private investigator have some memorable moments. Even Susan suddenly turns up with her boyfriend (Daniel di Tomasso) and things gets pretty chaotic.

There are some supernatural elements in the final act that makes the film even more surreal. Frances asks Madeline to channel Frances’ dead husband, in the apartment bathroom of all places! It’s also here that we learn why Small Frank behaves the way it behaves and why he’s given such a bizarre name. This revelation is seemingly random, instead of something that’s been an organic progress from the beginning. The few moments between Frances and her caring best friend Joan (Susan Coyne) is quite amusing as Frances is self-aware that ‘her life is riddled with clichés.’ There’s also a rather poignant scene of her reaching out to a homeless person outside her apartment, perhaps her last desperate attempts to find meaning in her hollow existence. It all feels a little too late however, thus it doesn’t really carry any emotional resonance.

Overall, despite Pfeiffer’s delightful performance, this movie doesn’t really stick in my mind long after its closing credits. It’s as if the writer is only interested in making the characters bizarre for its own sake instead of people we can connect or relate to in a meaningful way. I do like seeing Pfeiffer in a more comedic role, and she’s truly the reason this movie is worth a watch.


Have you seen FRENCH EXIT? Well, what did you think?

March Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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HAPPY SPRING!! We already hit 70 degrees earlier this week, 20 degrees warmer than what it’s supposed to be in late March in Minnesota. Of course we went back to the 30s immediately, but a 30-40 degree swing is pretty common here, but hey I’ll take even the occasional 60-70 degree early Spring day and today we almost hit 70 again, woot!!

Well, March turns out to be a pretty busy month work-wise that I managed to only watch 10 new-to-me movies! Partly because I had been invited to be one of the jury for an intercollegiate shorts film festival for a local university, Augsburg College. My short film HEARTS WANT had been shown at an Augsburg event a couple of years ago, and since it’s partnering with Twin Cities Film Fest which is near + dear to me, I just had to take part. In additional to this list below, I watched about 18 or so short films this month.

In any case, so here’s what I watched in MARCH:

NEW TO ME MOVIES

French Exit (2020)

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French Exit is a 2020 surreal comedy film starring Michelle Pfeiffer as a Manhattan heiress who moves to Paris with her son (Lucas Hedges) with the little money they have left. It’s a bizarre film and at times I have no idea where the filmmaker was going w/ it, but still worth a watch for La Pfeiffer’s elegantly-quirky performance.

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Where Hands Touch (2018)

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A rites of passage story of a bi-racial teen struggling for survival in Nazi Germany. I had missed this back in 2018 and given I loved Amma Asante’s work (especially Belle), I decided to finally watch it. The performance of Amandla Stenberg as Leyna is terrific, but the forbidden romance story between Leyna and Lutz (George MacKay), a member of Hitler Youth, isn’t as compelling as Asante’s previous work. It does highlight the history of Afro-Germans, but I think that story deserved a better film.

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The Courier (2021)

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Cold War spy Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his Russian source try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Stay tuned for my full review coming up next week!

Sentinelle

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Some people on Twitter were calling this female John Wick, but it’s nowhere near as fun. Olga Kurylenko plays a trained French soldier suffering PTSD after a combat mission and uses her lethal skills to hunt down the man who hurt her sister. Started out promising and it tries hard to be edgy, but falls flat and overall a pretty boring, predictable movie with a weak ending.

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Crisis (2021)

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Check out my full review AND interview with writer/director Nicholas Jarecki.

Waking Ned Devine (1998)

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I watched this as part of my St. Patrick’s Day post and it’s such a delightful, funny and quirky movie!

 4=

Justice League – The Snyder Cut (2021)

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I only watched this as my hubby was curious about it. I really tried to be neutral about this, though I absolutely abhorred the original Justice League. Can’t say this one is much of an improvement other than the fact that they improved Cyborg’s character development. But seriously, the darn thing is 4 hours long, if they can’t flesh out at least a single character in that time frame, then what the heck is the point?? Visually it’s just not a beautiful movie either, garish and overly morose.

Honestly I don’t see much artistic merit in this movie, I’m just mourning that $70 mil wasted to do another version of this. I mean, it could’ve made like a dozen indie films that are much more compelling story-wise.

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One Night in Miami (2020)

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I’m so glad I finally saw this! I’ve been too swamped to write a proper review of this but props to Regina King (in her directing debut no less) and screenwriter Kemp Powers for adapting his own play into a solid film. It tells this fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the Civil Rights Movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s. All the actors portraying those historical figures did a terrific job here.

4/5 stars

Arsène Lupin (2004)

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I came across this title on Amazon Prime and given how much I enjoyed Netflix’s LUPIN series, I decided to give it a shot. Romain Duris played the charming gentleman thief, involving a love triangle between a seductive sorceress (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the lovely girl from his childhood (Eva Green). Just the cast alone is intriguing, but the movie is pretty weird and borderline bizarre at times, but the French scenery and costumes are wonderful!

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AUDREY (documentary – 2021)

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I grew up watching Audrey Hepburn and still am in awe of her beauty. It’s fascinating watching this documentary told by those close to her, including her own son Sean Hepburn Ferrer. The ballet scenes are beautiful, evoking her past life as a ballerina, but I think it’s a bit overused. Overall I feel like the documentary feels a bit style-over-substance, which I can see why they did it given Audrey was such a style icon. Still I think the film was made with love and I’m glad it also highlights her remarkable life off-screen as a passionate humanitarian.

 3.5=

 


TV SERIES

Ted Lasso

I just LOVE this series!! I’m going to dedicate a post for it one of these days! It’s rare to see such a defiantly positive show that actually celebrates a good guy and being good to others, there are so many shows that are way too dark + violent these days, so Ted Lasso is just so refreshing!


The Falcon & The Winter Soldier

It’s only two episodes and I’m enjoying the series thus far! I actually reviewed the premiere episode here if you care to check it out. The third episode is the best so far, with familiar faces from MCU.


REWATCHES

MI: Fallout

Greatest Showman

Moulin Rogue!

Civil War

Endgame

The African Doctor


March MOVIE OF THE MONTH

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Yet another film based on a play that ends up being my favorite of the month (last month’s fave was The Father). I’m hoping a local theater would stage the play of this one, given how the commentary on Civil Rights Movement is so timely these days.


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in March?