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Paris Can Wait

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Paris Can Wait

See Paris Can Wait when you’re feeling peaceful. It’s a lovely, subtle portrait of a quiet woman who begins to discover who she is. That portrait is delivered by Diane Lane in grand collusion with Arnaud Viard. The movie unfolds in such a way that its fans and foes will be predictable. Men over 60 may find it boring. Women of that age may find it an intriguing new key to middle age. The old among us will love comparing today’s rules for women with those of our day. The certainty: there will be a follow-up movie.

Anne (Diane Lane) and her movie producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) have arrived at the Cannes Film Festival on a typical wife-supports-her- husband business trip. When Michael is summoned to another city, he leaves Anne in the hands of his business partner, Jacques, who turns the short trip to Paris into a two day tour of his favorite vistas, historic sites, and towns. At every mealtime Jacques produces a magical meal in a beautiful place. “This is the best time of year to eat young animals,” he says as the American hides one under her napkin.

Jacques’ attraction to Anne is an immediate given but it also becomes clear that in his mind, that will be her choice, not his. His specialty is the seductive process. As they travel, Anne takes dozens of pictures of everything with increasing attention to close ups of art and tapestry. She is falling in love with textures, and when Jacques looks at her pictures, he realizes she is discovering who she is and who she wants to be. His desire for an affair is enriched by wanting to help her see more of what she is discovering about herself.

As Anne begins, in several ways, to grow beyond the supportive wife role into self-discovery, a quiet feeling rolls over us. She will enrich her life in a way women have never, until quite recently, been encouraged to do. The light in Anne’s eyes tells us not what she will choose but that for the first time, she sees options. She has begun to discover herself.

Eleanor Coppola has written and directed this movie with such quiet beauty that nothing seems overdone. Successful husband Michael still loves his wife; Jacques wants an affair with her and Anne, for the moment anyway, has, in an involuntary way, found out who she wants to become. Instead of seeker and sought, they are equals contemplating future pleasures. Arnaud Viard’s courtship via beautiful food and flowers provides comic relief and future possibility.

We all owe a salute to Eleanor Coppola who has made a small film say so much that we suspect she has been there herself. No sermons here, just the quiet certainty that yes, there is someone else inside a woman when she reaches middle-age. She is just beginning. Diane Lane delivers a beautiful and very quiet portrait of a woman finding her core.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Paris Can Wait
Word Count : 498
Running time: 1:32
Rating : PG
Date : May 21, 2017

 

The Last Word

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Last Word

Shirley MacLaine has used all her natural ingredients to enliven The Last Word – a movie that wouldn’t make it without her. Known in real life for her belief in reincarnation, MacLaine must have enjoyed this chance to evolve from control freak to thoughtful mentor of others. Is it for you? Take a look.

At 82, Harriet Lauler (MacLaine) lives in luxury but hates the fake praise that infects so many obituaries. She induces obit writer Anne (Amanda Seyfried) to write hers – not after she dies, but now when she can control its content. As Anne begins her research, she discovers that Harriet was disliked by everyone she suggested as a source.

As Harriet begins to grasp her public reputation, she decides to fix things by changing herself. She engages Anne as her teammate and Brenda (Ann Jewel Lee Dixon) a tiny, foul mouthed bombshell of a little girl as the protégé she will mentor. Working with these two, she sets out to memorialize herself through new achievements.

At some point in the process the whole thing begins to feel disjointed. Writer? Director? Subject? All of those but with Maclaine as the self-rehabilitating control nut, the audience seems happy. Amanda Seyfried works hard as Maclaine’s new friend and final rehabilitation candidate, but her scripted part is repetitive and quite dull. The talented Seyfried is set adrift too often. Little Ann Jewel Lee Dixon makes us smile as she uses any musical excuse to dance and any verbal challenge to spew forth foul language.

The first scenes are the perfect introduction to what lies ahead. Actual pictures of Shirley MacLaine from earliest years through her career to the present are a quick summary of her life. Those shots lead to MacLaine as the fictional Harriet wandering through her luxurious house and finally reading the stuffy obituaries that will lead her to ask Anne to write her obituary while she’s alive so she herself can edit it. How can this happen when everyone Anne talks to dislikes Harriet? The control freak decides on reinvention – of herself.

In fine Shirley MacLaine fashion, Harriet unearths her record collection from many decades and uses it as a turning point in a life that is no longer lonely. Can she turn this last decade into what it should have done all along? Can she right some of her past wrongs? Can she chuck her “unyielding belief that everyone else is the problem?”

She may be creating her own obituary but in doing that she is also building on the lessons she has learned over eight decades. She is no longer waiting to die as she was in the early scenes. She has become an accomplished old woman with a purpose who doesn’t think about death. Labored as much of the movie is, you will probably be happy if you are a Shirley MacLaine fan. She manages to keep it all a small notch above sentimentality.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Last Word
Word Count : 497
Running time: 1:48
Rating : R
Date : March 19, 2017

 

 

This review was posted on March 18, 2017, in Comedy, Drama.