Eleanor Coppola waited until she was 80 years old to give us her first Hollywood feature. Perhaps all those years of being married to the legendary Francis Ford Coppola finally required a filmmaking journey of her own. Coppola's written and directorial debut, Paris Can Wait, has its charms and makes you very hungry for fine French cuisine, but what does it amount to in the end? The answer is a lighthearted romance that never quite finds its footing during a 92 minute running time that doesn't feel brisk enough.
Diane Lane almost makes it worth it as Anne Lockwood-the wife of Hollywood producer Michael (Alec Baldwin, dropping in for a two scene cameo)-a woman in dire need of a real vacation. Her husband is more married to his career than he is to her, and with their daughter in college, the simmer in their life has disappeared.
As the couple prepares to leave Cannes for Budapest, a sudden ill-feeling Anne opts out of the plane, and just wants to get to Paris. Michael's business partner, Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive her to the city of lights. What transpires is the unfolding of Anne's soul across a two day trip full of detours, mini-adventures, and a few budding signs of unexpected romance.
Arnaud's classy Frenchman has the hots for Anne, but how does she feel about a guy who is one hundred percent attentive to her needs for a change? The problem is I didn't really care to find out as the movie climbed to its conclusion. The story is a mere buffer for the two to stop and eat luxurious food and stay in exquisite hotels instead of building a true rapport or chemistry for the real heart of the film to work. Sometimes, European films can overpower the human characters with all the beautiful scenery and eatery.
I felt like I was watching 90 minutes of the travel channel instead of a real human story. Anne's amateur photography shots of the food, people, and architecture drive this point home even further, and drowns all the cinema juice out of it. All the movie did was make me very hungry and in need of a car with the top down next to a vast body of water.
Viard is a decent actor and didn't leave all of his charm in the trailer, but Jacques has so many quirks that his character needed a spin-off film to properly unpack them all. There are so many scenes where you wonder what his character is really up to and that a more creative third act could have taken the film. Sticking to romance here wasn't the right move, because it feels so expected and flat.
Lane is a vision at 52 years old, and it's good to see her leading films again, but the next time she needs a better script and partner. She is aging like a finer version of Diane Keaton, and it makes you wonder if Viard's Jacques was even needed at all to make the film run smoother.
Paris Can Wait feels like a film pulled from a real life lived, but its core doesn't have the persuasive skills to lure me into its trap. Unlike lost and found flicks like Lost in Translation (directed by Sofia Coppola) and Sideways, Paris Can Wait doesn't make you truly care for where the character's plight or where he/she will go. They are cardboard cutouts in a road movie.
Next time, I'd put as much feeling into the humans as you do the cars, roads, food, and view. Now, if you would excuse me, I need to go eat a very big meal to quench my hunger.