Most dramas are considered slow and potentially boring by today’s general audiences. There’s certainly a market for the genre, but the average moviegoer is looking for explosions and action instead of period pieces and dramas. The French Exit, based on the novel of the same name, is a drama that mostly takes place in France (as one might expect), but it has a subtle creep that almost makes it seem as though it’s a tense thriller in disguise. Join us as we take a deeper look into this hidden gem in our French Exit review.
The French Exit has a stellar cast featuring legendary talent and some relative newcomers, that mixes well in this quirky and charming drama. Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) are the main focal point of the film. Frances is a once wealthy aristocrat that is running out of money. When Frances’s friend Joan (Susan Coyne) offers her and Malcolm an apartment in France, she jumps at the opportunity.
As the film progresses, the cast of characters begin to slowly expand. What starts as a family drama with Frances and Malcolm, quickly turns into an ensemble film that rivals most Wes Anderson movies. In fact, with just a bit more humor, French Exit could easily be mistaken for a Wes Anderson film. Once the movie enters the third act, and all of the major players are center stage, French Exit reaches a magical experience of peak lunacy.
There’s a lot to the relationship between Frances and Malcolm. As the film begins, Frances is pulling Malcolm out of a boarding school (much to the headmaster’s dismay). Instead of spending time watching the two grow together, the film cuts to years later as the audience is shown the unique relationship between the two unfolding before their eyes. Soon after, the two head to France and the adventure begins.
While Pfeiffer and Hedges are as charming and charismatic as you might expect, it’s the rest of the cast that truly makes this film a pleasure to watch. The Price’s neighbor in France, Madame Reynard (Valerie Mahaffey), is equal parts nutty and lovable. Lucas’s on again, off again fiancé, Susan (Imogen Poots) adds just the right amount of sensibility to the antics of the film. Meanwhile, Julius (Isaach De Bankolé) is a private detective who doesn’t have many lines, but makes each one count. His expert delivery will have you wondering if he’s accepting of the lunacy, or just along for the ride to see how it ends.
With money running out and suicidal thoughts taking hold, the final 30 minutes of French Exit are fantastic. Clocking in just shy of two hours, it takes a bit to get to the best parts of the film, but the final act is worth the wait. The first half of the film is a bit slow, which is certain to bring down some people, but if you can make it to the end it all comes together beautifully. Wes Anderson fans should definitely make sure to catch this one, but it’s a solid drama with or without the comparison.
About French Exit
Synopsis: An aging Manhattan socialite living on what’s barely left of her inheritance moves to a small apartment in Paris with her son and cat.
Director: Azazel Jacobs
Writer: Patrick DeWitt
Stars: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts
Runtime: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes