There are two types of filmgoers to which Paris Can Wait could plausibly appeal: Those who love romances and those who love travelogue-type films. It’s just too bad that writer/director Eleanor Coppola doesn’t seem to know how to service either audience very well.
The film finds Anne (Diane Lane) on a business trip in France with Michael (Alec Baldwin), her film-producer husband. When an ear infection prevents Anne from boarding a plane, Michael’s business associate Jacques (Arnaud Viard) volunteers to drive Anne to Paris while Michael goes to work in Budapest, Hungary.
Little does Anne know that Jacques would rather make as many pit stops as possible to enjoy the French food, countryside, and more, than go directly to Paris. Alternately frustrated and charmed by Jacques’ laissez-faire attitude, Anne has little choice but to go along for the ride.
Coppola, making her feature film debut at the age of 81 after decades of supporting her husband, Francis Ford Coppola, is not wrong to assume that the idea of basing a movie around the appeal of driving through France is a solid one. But when it comes to actually executing it, Coppola falters on several levels.
First and foremost is the relationship between Anne and Jacques. While it’s obvious that there is supposed to be some kind of spark going on between the two of them, the feeling never translates off the screen. Anne’s marriage to Michael, while perhaps not red-hot, does not appear to be a bad one, so her straying with Jacques is both implausible and unappealing.
Attempts at deepening Anne’s character fall flat. She has a burgeoning affinity for photography, but the hobby seems mostly apropos of nothing. There are a couple of ventures into what life is like for her as a wife and mother, but the explorations are kept on the surface, so much so that we hardly feel like we know her at all.
The seducing nature of the French food, landscapes, and architecture doesn’t do the trick either. The charm level of the film is high, but it has no soul to it. Everything is simply presented for display with little-to-no feeling behind it. Half of the story in a film like this should be told through the cinematography, but that rarely happens here.
Coppola also doesn’t seem to know how to make good use of her cast. Much of the dialogue is stilted and delivered without passion, surprising for actors of the caliber of Lane, Viard, and Baldwin. The line readings are so consistently wooden that it’s not unreasonable to lay the blame at the feet of Coppola and not the actors.
It’s unclear what type of movie Coppola wanted to make with Paris Can Wait. It’s neither a good romance nor an overly alluring travelogue, leaving audiences stuck in the middle, waiting for a redemption that never arrives.