New York FF 2020: French Exit

Left to Right: Michelle Pfeiffer as Frances Price, Lucas Hedges as Malcolm Price. Image by Tobias Datumas. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

French Exit, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges, follows a broke socialite and her son in the new film from Azazel Jacobs.

Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) had plans “to die before the money ran out.”  Alas, this was not to be.  Insolvent and widowed at the start of the film, the Manhattan socialite decides to move to Paris.  The mere premise has all the makes of a comedy but instead, it’s a drama.  Frances could have used a better money manager after her husband, Franklin, died some twelve years earlier.  With no money left, Frances decides to move to Paris with her son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), and their cat, Small Frank.  Small Frank might or might not be the reincarnation of Franklin (Tracy Letts).  I’ll leave that to you to decide.

What should be a lonely vacant apartment becomes very crowded over the week to come.  Even a medium moves into the Paris apartment!  After all, Frances needs to be able to talk with Franklin, who–again, is allegedly a cat.

Frances seems like the perfect candidate for a reality show like Real Housewives or something similar.  At the same time, she isn’t a character we typically see on screen nor is it one that Pfeiffer would normally play.  And Malcolm?  He’s at the fork in the road where you don’t know what is in store for his future.  A lot of this comes down to the fact that the script zigs where you think it will zag.  It’s such a unique film in that regard especially where deWitt and Jacobs take their characters.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from director Azazel Jacobs on the big screen. The last film he did was The Lovers, which A24 released in 2017.  After going to the small screen for a bit, Jacobs reteams with one of the stars of that film (Tracy Letts) in the most peculiar way.  But this film is certainly an art house film through and through.  I don’t know what the state of the movie industry will be in February so there’s no telling if the current release date will stand.  What I can probably predict is that this won’t be the kind of film that will drive business back to the theaters.  It’ll help art house theaters, I’m sure, but only to an extent.  But what I’m trying to say here is that French Exit will not be for everyone.

French Exit subverts the coming-of-age genre but the unique film is propelled by strong performances from its leads.

DIRECTOR:  Azazel Jacobs
SCREENWRITER:  Patrick deWitt
CAST:  Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey, Imogen Poots, Susan Coyne, Danielle Macdonald, Isaach De Bankolé, Daniel di Tomasso, and Tracy Letts

French Exit held its world premiere during the 2020 New York Film Festival in the Main Slate program. Sony Pictures Classics will open on February 12, 2021. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.