A mix of Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip (2010) and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995), but sans the former’s clever sense of humor and the latter’s intelligence, Eleanor Coppola’s Paris Can Wait is perhaps the year’s most tedious, needlessly bougie movie. I can’t imagine anyone other than a Coppola making a movie so vapid and I can’t imagine anyone other than a Coppola getting something this banal and out-of-touch made — let alone distributed. It’s a movie with nothing on its mind and nothing entertaining about it, a film that says very little with even less style. I’m not sure who this movie was made for, though I know it definitely wasn’t made for me.
Diane Lane stars as Anne, a patient wife with a workaholic film producer husband named Michael (Alec Baldwin) who cares for her but is far too busy with his work to give her any proper attention or affection. Seeing as the film is written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola’s wife, read into this as much as you like. Anyway, they’re all set to head on vacation to Paris, but a sudden work emergency forces Michael to Eastern Europe and Anne into a meandering road trip with Jacques (French actor Arnaud Viard) to await her husband’s arrival in Paris.
Jacques is depicted as a stereotypical Frenchman, stopping their road trip every hour for a cigarette break and taking Anne on various detours for fine dining and sightseeing, something that becomes a sort of in-joke that very quickly peters out. The majority of the movie consists of Anne and Jacques eating tiny plates of food and tasting expensive wines (hence my comparisons to The Trip), doing bits of sightseeing and chatting in the car, but never really saying or doing anything of note.
There’s nothing philosophical or clever or funny in the interactions between the two. This becomes more frustrating when you finally realize that the movie revolves around the will-they-won’t-they dynamic of Jacques and Anne. I say “realize” because I spent the bulk of the movie wondering where this was all going, with a romantic interest being the only plausible direction. This understanding had nothing, really, to do with what was on screen, since the movie has no momentum and no real dramatic arc — the last and only place it had to go is toward some sort of romantic tension.
The problem with this angle is that neither actor has any real chemistry. I’m not sure this is the fault of Lane and Viard since their characters are both drawn with zero personality, airless and uninteresting. They have little emotion and seem to only gently get along. There’s never anything carnal there, neither has any passions (besides Anne’s bad photography that even she doesn’t seem to care about), so the idea of either one being sexually attracted to the other is absurd. That this is then squeezed into the end — right along with a gratingly cute attempt at setting up a sequel — is even more of a miscue, making for a pointless movie full of something worse than bad ideas, but no ideas. Rated PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language. Now playing at Fine Arts Theater.