Adapted from the novel by best-selling author Patrick deWitt, French Exit is a witty interpretation of wealth and elitism, told through the lens of Frances (Michelle Pfeiffer) a widow who is forced to move to France with her son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) after their funds run dry. The journey taken is that of a discovery, as the two learn more about themselves and each other, creating a powerful mother/son relationship.
The screenplay, also written by Patrick deWitt, is bold. The dialogue feels like it has been pulled from the pages of his novel. Conversations are intricate and poetic, however often verging on pretentious. Characters bounce off one another, struggling to limit conversations to the ordinary. The atmosphere of the film often sways between quirky and erratic, however, there is never a dry moment, every scene is engaging thanks to the swift script, which is complemented nicely by director Azazel Jacobs.
The personalities of each character are perfectly represented by the terrific casting decisions. Each acting performance feels so true to the character that is being portrayed. The abstract characterisation feels authentic, even if the personalities of each character are unlike anything we have seen before in real life. The charisma of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Frances is outstanding. The spotlight is stolen whenever she is on screen because every line she delivers is done so with a tremendous sense of conviction. This seems like a role Pfeiffer was born to play, and we are fortunate enough to witness it.
While the performance of Michelle Pfeiffer is extraordinary in every sense of the word. The film seems like an excuse to showcase the terrific range of this fantastic actress, meaning other aspects of the film fly under the radar. The core elements of the story become lost as the film progresses, risking losing the audiences investment in the characters. The unstable story is not just a criticism however, it may just be a genius writing decision. The fluctuating plot is perfectly matched by its protagonist, a woman who does not care how she is perceived. She is brave, rarely sticking to the rules that are set for her, much like the films story. The storytelling is unique to say the least, as we don’t really see characters develop as we are used to seeing, instead this seems like a eccentric character study.
French Exit is far from a natural film. The unbalanced story and characters are not what moviegoers are used to seeing, but the risks taken are just what the industry needs. deWitt and Jacobs team up to bring this novel to life, doing so in an abnormal manner, honouring the book in a fitting way that is sure to both perplex, but satisfy viewers.
Film Review By Felix Baldassi-Winderlich