Road trip movies can be divided between stories about existential journeys of the soul and scenic tours through picturesque landscapes. “Easy Rider” vs “Around the World in 80 Days.” You can have both. Witness “Y Tu Mama Tambien” or “Into the Wild,” as movies that make statements about transitory nature of life and love, set against a backdrop of eye-catching countryside.
Director Eleanor Coppola’s “Paris Can Wait” certainly has the scenery—you can almost smell the croissants—but forgets to give us a reason to care. As an ad for the French Riviera Tourist Bureau it works. As a big screen movie experience it’s a good ad for the French Riviera Tourist Bureau.
Diane Lane is Anne, wife of loudmouth film producer Michael (Alec Baldwin). When he interrupts their trip to Cannes to stamp out a fire on a film set in Morocco she must stay in France. Plagued by an ear infection she can’t fly but wants the peace and quiet of an old friend’s apartment in Paris. When Michael’s producing partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard), a free-spirited hedonist, offers to drive her, she accepts.
“Driving is the only way to see a country,” he says.
At first she’s impatient, wanting to get from a to b as quickly as possible but soon she’s seduced by Jacques’ joie de vivre as they make frequent detours to enjoy the country’s copious charms. With every restaurant, historical sight, glass of wine and bite of fancy food she relaxes. “Let’s pretend we don’t know where we’re going or even who we are,” he says. Soon she finds the attention Jacques showers on her is something she’s missing in her marriage.
Coppola has done something remarkable. She has found a way to make Provence and the Brittany dull. For as sensual as the food looks the film’s languid pacing does no favors for the road trip part of the story. It’s like a food network special with movie stars; a travelogue whose pretty pictures are interrupted by Jacques’ stream of consciousness history lessons. “I did not know that my tour guide,” she responds to another of his touristy tidbits. You probably won’t know much of this trivia either and by the middle of the movie you likely won’t care. Where are “The Trip’s” Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon when you need them?