“French Exit,” the acclaimed novel from Patrick DeWitt, is now a film adapted by director Azazel Jacobs. This odd and uncompromising film is not for everyone but it does have Michelle Pfeiffer in winning form.
Frances (Pfeiffer) is an older jaded socialite down on her luck. She lives with her passive son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges). The two are not particularly warm to each other.
Finding out that she is bankrupt without any income, she resolves to move to Paris, essentially in a kind of exile.
Malcolm is about to be engaged to Susan (Imogen Poots). He breaks it off, not wanting to leave his mother in dire straits.
Frances and Malcolm take a cruise to France. On board, Malcolm meets a psychic (Danielle Macdonald) they have sex but it does not seem to go very well.
Once in Paris, it is revealed that Frances’ black cat is actually her husband reincarnated.
The narrative is dark as Malcolm plays a sociopathic and masochist mind game with Susan who is back in New York, by calling and threatening legal action, yet on the other hand, not bothering to explain himself.
Frances is in the apartment battling the cat and dealing with a spaced out sycophantic expatriate (Valerie Mahaffey).
The acting is first rate. Michelle Pfeiffer is terrific as a volatile and impulsive femme fatale. She is pained and haunted and there is mystery in her performance. Valerie Mahaffey as the syrupy sweet but unhinged acquaintance just about steals the show. Restless and eerie, a character straight out of an Ari Aster horror film.
The drama with an angry cat, a listless son and an uncaring psychic is offbeat to say the least—a bit like Woody Allen as if seen through the lens of Albert Camus.
The understated and strange episodes are certainly hard to define as this is neither a comedy or a drama, yet final few moments of “French Exit” as Michelle Pfeiffer walks off into a Paris archway is both disquieting and beautiful.
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