“Paris Can Wait” – Cannes is a dream for anyone who loves movies. Well, this coastal city – located in the south of France and just down the road from Nice – is a dream for anyone, whether he or she enjoys movies or not. (Although, who could possibly fall into the latter category, really?) Of course, Cannes hosts the annual Festival de Cannes – a.k.a. The Cannes Film Festival – and Anne and Michael Lockwood (Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin) are completing their stay at the aforementioned event. They just finished breakfast, and their bags are packed.
They soon arrive at a nearby airport – with Jacques (Arnaud Viard), Michael’s business partner/local chaperone – to head to Budapest on a private plane, but Anne’s ears are bothering her, so the pilot recommends that she shouldn’t fly. Rather than take a train to Hungary, she decides to travel back to their friends’ apartment in Paris, and Jacques offers to drive her to The City of Light, about eight or nine hours away.
Makes sense, right? Jacques knows the way, and he is Michael’s trusty business partner. The problem is that Jacques is not exactly trustworthy, because he is a desperate flirt.
Director/writer Eleanor Coppola’s film is a road picture, set in the beautiful, lush countryside of France under bright and optimistic blue skies. Even though “Paris Can Wait” envelops Anne in a warm spring setting, Coppola – right away – sets a tone of casual angst and places her in an irritating predicament. With Jacques’ one-two combination of frequent come-ons and a laissez-faire travel mantra, Anne quickly realizes that she is in for a long, winding trip.
For example, Jacques pulls his green Peugeot into a gas station and mentions that he likes to stretch his legs and smoke a cigarette about once an hour when traveling. Whether they are stopped or not, he constantly showers her compliments and chivalrous courtesies, as if they are embarking on a first date. Mind you, he does not step over physical boundaries, but Jacques’ intention is crystal clear.
It’s difficult, however, to respond to the cinematic dramatic tension, because Jacques – even though he is cultured, knowledgeable and friendly – is not particularly likeable, at least to this moviegoer. His advances – although again, not physical – are so blatantly over-the-top, there is very little sincerity in his courtship. Surely, he believes that Anne is gorgeous, talented and intelligent, but he may have run through this romantic admiration-routine with a dozen women within the last week. Not unlike the cartoon character Pepe Le Pew, the skunk who repeatedly stalks a black cat who accidentally acquires a white stripe of paint on her back, Jacques is shameless in his attempts for amorous approvals. I have not watched a Pepe Le Pew cartoon for probably a couple decades, but I remember feeling lots of sympathy for the black cat. Those feelings came rushing back for poor Anne, but to her credit, she keeps her real-life Pepe at arms length with grace and patience.
Lane’s Anne – on the other hand – is very likeable. Coppola does a nice job of establishing her as thoughtful and kind. Back at the hotel, Anne and Michael’s room has a gorgeous view of the sea, but her eye is drawn to small details that one may not necessarily notice. An amateur photographer, she takes close-ups of a half-filled glass of orange juice, a portion of a croissant and an empty group of tables on the landing below. The small nuances of life are not lost upon her.
Michael seems to have his good qualities too, but this Hollywood producer takes phone call after phone call, managing the small details of a complicated movie with little time for anything else. His ringtone literally barks, so one can easily imagine that Anne has been hearing it in her sleep for years. No wonder her ears hurt. Anne has been emotionally rejected over the course of her marriage too, but Michael is not necessarily a current candidate to become a jilted husband.
There are shades of gray here, and I appreciate Coppola for not making this potential infidelity a black and white issue. On the other hand, a road picture needs its leads to have chemistry and its characters should fit or gel. Unfortunately, I did not sense many sparks between Lane and Viard, and Jacques does not seem to be a plausible answer for Anne in the short-term and/or long term.
This movie does, however, provide an answer to the question: What is food porn? Jacques and Anne enjoy a fantastical bounty of French cheeses, wines, fruit tarts, breads, and chocolates. This film absolutely knows how to rev up our taste buds, as they embrace appetizing pleasures during their journey, even if Anne does not appreciate the extra attention bestowed upon her. Running at 1 hour 32 minutes, “Paris Can Wait” is a light affair that soaks up lovely scenery while presenting the possibility of an altogether different type of affair. Just don’t expect that it will win a Palme d’Or award anytime soon. You might be waiting a while.