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On the Road to Paris in Eleanor Coppola's Comedy

May. 30, 2017
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pariscanwait

Anne lingers on the hotel balcony overlooking the balmy Mediterranean, snapping photographs of the croissants and orange juice on the table. Her husband’s phone chatter—shoptalk about “cutting production costs in half”—drifts like a nudging sea breeze. Anne (Diane Lane) and Michael (Alec Baldwin) are a comfortably married old couple. He’s a Hollywood producer and she is his companionable wife, tagging along as he cajoles, deals and troubleshoots. For reasons too slight to recount, he flies out from Cannes, and she is entrusted to his French business associate. Jacques (Arnaud Viard) is tasked with driving Anne to Paris.

Paris Can Wait

Diane Lane

Arnaud Viard

Directed by Eleanor Coppola

Rated PG

For her feature debut, Paris Can Wait, writer-director Eleanor Coppola took to heart the dictum “write what you know.” One hesitates to call the film autobiographical, but who couldn’t speculate that some resonance of her life as wife of Francis Ford Coppola isn’t heard in the screenplay? While Michael clearly hasn’t forgotten Anne, he has a second wife in the form of his work. She has nothing to do while he’s working but amuses herself by taking still pictures as the motion picture industry hums around her.

Paris Can Wait is a road movie—a car trip with many stops and digressions. Jacques is a worldly Frenchman who loves the sensuous play of sunlight through the leaves and the taste of freshly baked bread. He can expound for hours on the heady bouquet of wine and the mellow tang of goat cheese. The world has given rise to countless varieties of both, and he is intimate with every one. 

She is in a hurry to get to Paris, and he is in no hurry—inventing one reason after another to stop, look, taste and experience life. She is bemused with furrowed brow, but her impatience is lightly worn. Anne has some knowledge of art history and begins to connect with the country that once was the worldwide focus of culture. She suggests visiting a certain medieval cathedral. Inside the dark sanctuary, she lights a candle and opens to Jacques, recounting the death of her son, age 39 days.

The mood of Paris Can Wait is light comedy gently flecked with pathos and irritation. An almost-romantic moment between Jacques and Anne is interrupted by the bleating of a text from her teenage daughter—a total drag. The twitching wire of suspense in this charming trifle of a film concerns whether Jacques and Anne will share more than wine and a ride. Well, there’s enough material left over for a sequel, should Coppola find the financing.

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