Dir/scr. Eleanor Coppola. US, 2016, 92 mins.
Known primarily for her documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, Eleanor Coppola fully enters the family business with her first fiction feature at the age of 80. Paris Can Wait, the story of a film producer’s wife (Diane Lane) who inadvertently goes on a road trip through France with her husband’s roué business partner (Arnaud Viard) is a soft, slim, albeit charming, tale, filled with food, flowers, and good wines (with a nod to the other family business)
There are touching moments – whether that be the loss of a child, or the disappearance of a Rolex watch – that could only have come from real life, and the film is all the better for them.
And good performances. It’s a credit to the often-underused Diane Lane, playing opposite the twinkly-eyed rogue Viard, that Paris Can Wait rises from its pretty shackles of being an old-fashioned film shot and scored in a palpably old-school way. More mature US audiences in particular should respond, attracted by the Coppola name. Paris Can Wait traverses much the same themes as the UK’s recent Le Weekend, but add the foodie angle and home business starts to look tasty.
The road from Cannes to Paris is dramatically flat, but Lane and Viard prove good company. She plays Anne, the patient empty-nester wife of producer Michael (Alec Baldwin). As Paris Can Wait starts, they’re at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival (judging by the Ingrid Bergman posters) where he’s preoccupied, always on his phone, but they seem to have a happy marriage nonetheless. Audiences will read into this references to Eleanor’s life as the wife of Francis Coppola, and indeed Paris Can Wait is a fictionalised account of an interlude in the director’s own past.
When Anne declines to get on a plane to Budapest due to a persistent earache, Michael’s gourmand business partner Jacques (Viard) offers to drive her to Paris in his clapped-out old Peugot convertible and she reluctantly accepts. Despite the fact they work together, Michael clearly doesn’t trust Jacques with his wife; he’s certainly an old-school French roué with a roving eye and Eleanor Coppola isn’t about to avoid any clichés when it comes to his character. Meanwhile, Anne is the kind of old-school wife who carts her husband’s socks around in her handbag and allows men to drag her across France and order for her at restaurants: this isn’t a film for feminists or French people.
But, Paris Can Wait does have its magical moments. While it never builds to a climax, content to roam around service stations – Jacques stops every hour for a cigarette — lavender fields, Michelin-starred restaurants, and the Lumiere brothers museum in Lyon, Coppola can strike a sweet balance between art and life. Anne is smart, and asks questions: she takes photographs as she travels, freezing moments. Satie plays on the car radio; Cezanne, Renoir and Manet come into the frame. There’s a sense of lives fully lived. And there are touching moments – whether that be the loss of a child, or the disappearance of a Rolex watch – that could only have come from real life, and the film is all the better for them.
Production companies: American Zoetrope, Lifetime Films, Corner Piece Capital
International sales: Protagonist
Producers: Fred Roos, Eleanor Coppola
Executive producers: Lisa Hamilton Daly, Tanya Lopez, Rob Sharenow, Molly Thompson
Screenplay: Eleanor Coppola.
Cinematography: Crystel Fournier
Editor: Glen Scantlebury
Music: Laura Karpman
Production design: Anna Seibel
Main cast: Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard, Alec Baldwin