Married couple Anne (Dianne Lane) and Michael (Alec Baldwin) intend to travel from Cannes to Budapest before vacationing in Paris, but the plans are thwarted by Anne’s ear infection, who decides to journey for Paris in advance. By ‘coincidence’, Michael’s business partner, Jacques (Arnaud Viard), happens to be travelling there too and offers to drive her.
From the get-go, Anne is courted by the food-loving Jacques, who showers her with a level of care and affection she is unaccustomed to. The journey is, on the surface, deceptively carefree – two ‘friends’ waltzing through countryside France, sprinkled with flirtatious jokes and light-hearted humour.
Of course, with Jacque’s charms and advances, one senses the brimming sexual tension and the inevitable choice Anne must make – between an affectionate man and a success-obsessed and often indifferent husband.
The conflict is clichéd, and unfortunately Eleanor’s film disappoints on this front, struggling to distinguish itself.
From the attractive middle-aged woman who is neglected by her rich and successful husband to the tired car failure trope that gives Anne an opportunity to discuss her struggling marriage with Jacques, the story seems all too familiar.
For a woman who is supposedly in a raging conflict of loyalties between husband and attractive Jacques, Anne appears indifferent, blissfully bumbling through a foreign land. Perhaps we are supposed to feel sympathy for her, but this is difficult given her blissful and indifferent attitude. She simply does not seem to care. The audience gets little sense of her dilemma or insight into her feelings – just a smiling Anne enjoying food and scenery.
Baldwin’s screen time is truncated – a quick appearance at the start followed by brief reappearances in the form of desperate phone calls throughout. However, for a film with such little drama, such rare emotion is enough to give this otherwise minor character a major role. Without Baldwin’s calls, one would almost be forgiven in forgetting about the conflict at play: the film at times feels more of advertising for French tourism.
Stuck between two larger-than-life and charismatic personalities, the bland Anne loses her individuality, evolving into a prize between a charming Frenchman and the increasingly frustrated Baldwin.
Paris Can Wait is a movie that can, for the most part, wait. For a film based on the concept of conflicting loyalties, there is little confrontation, character reflection or development to show for this. Don’t get me wrong – the scenery is beautiful and no doubt Francophiles and foodies will love this film, but one does not need to rush to the cinemas for that.
Read our review of 20th Century Women here.