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French Exit an odd, delightful film worth the watch

Pfeiffer shines as demanding, flamboyant socialite fallen on hard times
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Michelle Pfeiffer offers a star turn in French Exit, coming soon to a Reel Mondays screen near you. SONY PICTURES CLASSICS/Photo

DETAILS

French Exit

Stars 3.0

Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey, Imogen Poots, Susan Coyne, Danielle Macdonald, Isaach de Bankolé, and the voice of Tracy Letts

Written by Patrick deWitt, based on his novel

Directed by Azazel Jacobs

Rated: 14A for coarse language, smoking, and violence

Runtime: 114 minutes

Playing at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 15 at the Arden Theatre as part of Reel Mondays.

*Please visit the Arden Theatre's website for COVID-19 protocols: stalbert.ca/exp/arden

A season pass is $50, or you can purchase your tickets for $15 each (plus Eventbrite fees). All proceeds benefit STARFest – St. Albert Readers’ Festival.

Visit friendsofsapl.ca/reel-monday for more information.

Contact [email protected] or visit the library's customer service desk for help purchasing tickets and any other questions. As this is a Friends fundraiser, there will be no refunds for unused tickets. Tickets can be purchased online until just before the movie begins but will not be available in-person at the door before the movie.

Wealthy Manhattan widow Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) lives the dream of not having to work for a living. Unfortunately, such dreams are unsustainable without something to fuel them. One day, she wakes and the money is all gone.

Advised to “sell it all… the jewelry, the art, the books,” she moves to a flat owned by a friend in Paris and takes her put-upon adult son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), along with her cat who could very well be her reincarnated husband Franklin (with the voice of Tracy Letts). Fleeing the country with her tail between her legs is a tough adjustment, especially for someone so set in her ways.

Malcolm endures his overbearing mother as Frances, always the centre of attention, demands to be catered to. He can't even work up the courage to tell her important personal news without her immediately shutting him down and taking the spotlight. She isn’t really much of a sympathetic character, but she is still fun to watch.

The movie also is a lot of fun to watch, yet more English than French in its content. Most of the pleasure in the film is in the dialogue and Pfeiffer’s diction. She is upper crust, though some of the acting during her scenes is a bit forced in its melodrama. Maybe, however, that’s part of the point: Frances is far too superficial to be real. Her pleas for compassion don’t ring true because she rises above such petty bourgeois emotions. Only her disdain has any air of authenticity.

The casting of Michelle Pfeiffer is spot-on; her performance as the odd, intelligent, and demanding Frances is Oscar-worthy. Though the Academy passed her by on this ride, she did take a nomination for a Golden Globe for this dark comedy, and came home with the Best Actress prize from the Canadian Screen Awards (the film was a Canadian co-production). Frances is the star of her own life and Pfeiffer the actor owns every scene that she's in. Hedges and the rest of the cast simply ride on Frances's coattails.

I would put French Exit on par with the quality of storytelling that was evident with the Jacques Audiard’s film adaptation author Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, especially since the author crafted his own screenplays. The title means "leaving without fully saying a proper adieu" but I do recommend you stick this one out to the bitter end. Every scene is juicy and miserable and delightful.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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