Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey, Imogen Poots Susan Coyne, Isaach De Bankole and the voice of Tracy Lett
Could there be a more unlikely group to be together in Paris? The movie takes a while in getting you/them there. It starts out with Frances Price (Pfeiffer) learning—although not for the first time of being told—that she is out of money. Obviously, from her home, to the way she is dressed, and the places she frequents, she is used to high style living. She takes her financial manager’s advice and sells her valuables, giving her a tidy sum of money, which would last a lifetime for a frugal person. That, Frances is not.
When her best friend Joan (Coyne) learns of her plight, she offers her apartment in Paris, which she rarely uses. This creates a new problem for Frances’ devoted son Malcolm (Hedges), who has just become engaged but hasn’t told her. It quickly becomes apparent that Malcolm is completely dependent on his mother for money, so he has to tell his fiancé Susan (Poots) goodbye the next day—but of course he wants her to wait for him, even though he has no idea when he will return.
What is sure to be a capricious journey with this mother-son duo constitutes the plot, involving very odd and unpredictable people pulled into their story as they proceed across the sea on a ship and arrive in Paris, smuggled cat in tow. But the most unpredictable of all is seductive Frances. She (artfully played by Pfeiffer) tops them all in eccentricity.
The movie is a farce that one can enjoy by not taking it too seriously
The movie is a farce that one can enjoy (Oh, for the theater popcorn in these Covid-19 times!) by not taking it too seriously and if you can vicariously enjoy living a carefree life with stacks of Euro notes resting on the shelf in your closet.
Not entirely without some degree of redeeming value, the movie shows honesty among the homeless, waiters, and other average citizens, who try to give back absurd amounts of cash liberally distributed by our heroine. Emotional health, forgiveness, and honesty come from the effusive Mme. Reynaud (Mahaffey), the type of woman Frances has in the past spurned with a flip of her sarcastic tongue.
Interestingly—and perhaps quite intentionally—references to death become a theme throughout this bizarre movie in its appearance in Frances’ overall plan, another dead husband, and séances with Frances’ own dead husband and his association with her black cat. Perhaps the black cat is a warning about choosing a compromised lifestyle over a more comfortable one.
A light confection, French Exit will amuse those who are at least a bit philosophical about life.