Anne (Diane Lane) is the wife of Michael (Alec Baldwin). Michael is an internationally renowned film producer. As is established early on, their marriage is not perfect. Michael is consumed with work and, at one point, Anne spots him deep in conversation with a young actress. Anne’s reaction tells us all we need to know about Michael’s history as a husband. While Michael obsesses on making the latest deal, Anne takes pictures of inanimate objects. None of the pictures are particularly good but everyone in the movie raves about them. I imagine that has something to do with the fact that Anne is based on Eleanor Coppola, who wrote and directed Paris Can Wait.
When the film opens, Anne and Michael are at Cannes. Michael has spent the entire festival making deals but he’s promised Anne a Paris vacation afterward. However, the day that they’re vacation is supposed to begin, Michael gets a call! He’s needed in Budapest! And Anne can’t fly because she has an ear infection…
No worries! Their friend Jacques (Arnaud Viard) is willing to drive Anne to Paris and keep her company while she waits for Michael to return. And so, while Michael flies off to Budapest, Anne and Jacques head off for Paris. However, Anne soon finds herself questioning Jacques’s intentions. Is he being flirtatious or is he just French? When he stops off at every restaurant along the way and uses Anne’s credit card to pay the exorbitant bills, is he taking advantage of her or is he just being French? When Anne isn’t doubting Jacques’s intentions, she’s questioning her marriage. Is Michael really in Budapest to work on a movie or is he having an affair?
One of the good things about being rich is that you occasionally get to make a movie about how difficult it is to be rich. That certainly seems to be the case with Paris Can Wait, which was written and directed by Eleanor Coppola, the wife of Francis Ford Coppola and the mother of Sofia and Roman Coppola. Paris Can Wait is said to be autobiographical, which would seem to suggest that Eleanor and Francis aren’t particularly interesting human beings.
There are some positive elements to the film, of course. Diane Lane gives about as good a performance as one can when you’re playing an idealized version of a film’s director. Also, Alec Baldwin manages to make it through the entire movie without bellowing. In fact, Baldwin’s barely in the movie and that’s not a bad thing. The French countryside looks beautiful but, quite frankly, it’s impossible for the French countryside not to look beautiful. On the negative side, it just doesn’t add up to much. You never really care whether or not Michael and Anne stay together. You’re just thankful that you’ll never get stuck beside them on an airplane.
I think the main problem is that, as a director, Eleanor Coppola doesn’t really seem to know what she’s trying to say with her film. For instance, I could imagine Sofia Coppola taking the exact same material and creating a movie that would be achingly poignant and full of ennui. But, with Eleanor, it’s just another travelogue to nowhere.