The Sawmill Theatres releases two new movies this week. I wanted to see “French Exit” just to see Michelle Pfeiffer at age 62. She still has her beauty and compelling screen presence.
In her late 20s, she played the female lead in a fantasy movie called “Ladyhawke.” At one point in the film her lover, who transforms into a wolf at night has a brief look at her face just before she turns into a hawk. Her face and only her face covers the entire movie screen in what I regard as the most beautiful film shot of an actress ever made.
She is also a tremendously skilled and now well-practiced actress. Pfeiffer has 67 acting credits on her sheet, all that I have seen are quite nicely performed. Her first role was a TV series based on the movie “Animal House” where she played Bombshell. Her most recent TV role is as Betty Ford. Now that is range.
Imogen Poots, the perky English actress with the wonderful name, has a small role. Young but well experienced Lucas Hedges (who played in the magical, wonderful “Moonlight Kingdom”) plays the son of the Pfeiffer character.
In the story, a socialite in dire financial distress flees to Paris with her son and cat. The cat happens to house the reincarnated spirit of her late husband. The film does have a wacky side to it to mix with the pathos.
And viewers are mixed with a sort of bewildered awe that some talented movie people would make a film so boring and unsatisfying. Frances, the widow, has every flaw attributed to the highest realms of the upper class. She is selfish, careless of her own well-being as well as that of her son. She from time to time is gratuitously mean to those she encounters. Her life plan is to spend all of the money remaining to her of her husband’s accumulation and then to murder herself. That would leave her son Malcolm alone, unskilled at any aspect of life, and penniless.
Malcolm lives his life as a somnambulist, a sleepwalker. He is connected to nothing, understands little, and seems tragically damaged by the way his mother raised him.
Neither of these characters generates sympathy from the viewers. They are wounded but without the capacity to struggle against their fate. They are emotional and financial black holes, consuming but never adding either to the stock of human happiness or the stock of prosperity.
Pfeiffer at the age of 62 has her trademark luminous skin. Sadly, that alone cannot recommend the film. I would hope that the moviemakers would know by now that passive nihilism does not make for a popular film.
“French Exit” is written by Patrick deWitt from his novel of the same name. Director Azazel Jacobs makes his sixth feature film.
“French Exit” runs for one hour and 50 minutes. It carries an R rating for language. This two sawblade film will please lovers of fine acting and pointless despair.