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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 Dinner

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Dinner

By way of confession, it’s not often that a movie digs into my fairly shallow well of negativity. Considering how tough it is to make a good movie, it seems only fair to look for the good before turning nasty. It’s not fun to tear down the hard work of someone else unless the film is an insult to the audience. That said, The Dinner is a carefully crafted film with a fine cast that is viscerally unpleasant from beginning to end. If that’s what you want, be assured this one will please you.

Stan (Richard Gere) is a U.S. congressman now running for governor. His brother Paul (Steve Coogan) is a former history teacher who overwhelms us with his anger at everything and everyone in his world. Stan has trophy wife Kate (Rebecca Hall) at his side as he runs for office; Paul has Claire (Laura Linney), a kind, and protective wife to her obviously mentally disturbed husband.

Director Dan Moverman teases us with shots of the children of these two odd couples who work their way in escalating scenes toward committing an unimaginable crime while wrapped in their own delicious pleasure at the doing of it.

Paul and Stan, along with their wives, are meeting to discuss and decide how to treat the crime their children have committed. Should they use their power and influence to protect the guilty children with a cover up or admit the truth? In one of the oddest and ugliest parts of the story, Stan chooses to meet at a restaurant so fake and unimaginable that it becomes an ugly mockery of people who can afford to eat there.

A word about the restaurant. A single file procession of wooden soldier waiters walks slowly, deliberately, to the table with multiple courses of perfect food which the head waiter describes in ludicrous detail. Each course is introduced with an announcement of the food along with an insulting description of its perfection. The awful ritual is interrupted repeatedly by Stan or Paul, jumping up to leave in anger at the other. Nothing goes well because the two are usually involved in an outside-the-the-dining-room verbal confrontation or – finally – in a violent physical rage where they vent years of resentment.

All this said, the acting is formidable, the filming clever. The fakery of the characters and that restaurant that caters to their tastes while they decide how to handle their murderous children is close to intolerable. The overall effectiveness is a tribute to Richard Gere and Steve Coogan for making us detest the choices available to their characters. Coogan’s Paul, who labels himself “a warrior for the underclass” is a hideous bundle of his own disillusioning life experiences.

Although the movie is written, acted, and filmed with skill, there is nothing here of the unexpected. When good writers create no change in character, no lesson learned over its length, an audience can feel they’ve been had. You decide.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Dinner
Word Count: 498
Running time: 2:00
Rating : R
Date : May 14, 2017