Paris Can Wait

And by “Paris,” they mean “plot”

I t is possible your extramarital fantasies do not involve whips, chains or vampires. They might just be about chocolate, the French countryside, and just the slightest hint of romance. They may also involve a complete lack of commitment, a dick-in-a-glass, and the ability to claim innocence at every turn … cuz the great part of romance is about having a lovely person shower you with positive affection without ever having to return it, is it not? In case of an affinity for the latter, here’s a film for the uncommitted romantic in every one: Paris Can Wait.

Personally, I would love to know the pain of “shooting on location.” This is the beef of movie producer Michael (Alec Baldwin) as he and wife Anne (Diane Lane) check out of their sea-facing hotel room on the French Riviera. Anne has some sort of ear infection and has to beg off a private jet to Budapest in favor of taking a train straight to their apartment in Paris. Production assistant and local “friend” Jacques (Arnaud Viard) has a better idea – you go ahead to Budapest, Michael, and I’ll drive your wife to Paris myself. No biggie.

This is an exercise in trust, of course, and a foolish one for Michael to indulge – not that he cannot trust Anne, but it is clear from Jacques’ first detour to sightsee the Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard that Jacques ain’t takin’ the direct route, nor is he takin’ the honorable one. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is not a flat-out seduction, but a smile, a flirt, a flower, a mild touch. Jacques is a soft-sell roué. So how long exactly is Anne going to allow herself to be romanced?

After we dump Alec, the rest of Paris Can Wait is a travelogue of the romantic French vacation you might have dreamed of – scenery, wine, chocolate, cuisine, museums, and a French accent subtly suggesting that you get in his pants if you so desired, and you would enjoy zat, oui? The way it works is these two drive for about ten minutes, then she says she needs to be in Paris, he says, “carpe diem,” and they end up having a meal somewhere beautiful and Anne is compelled to take pictures of the food. It is a great deal like one of those Rob Brydon/Steve Coogan Trip films less the Michael Caine impressions.

This is a beautiful, if completely empty, film. This is a beautiful, if completely empty, fantasy. The first problem I had is that little happens – Paris Can Wait plays like a reset sitcom; Jacques and Anne start every scene with her wanting to go to Paris, his desire to delay and enjoy, her understanding that she’s actually reliant on him and, ultimately, her realization that a delay can’t hurt. The second, and most major, problem I have is the one-sided nature of their relationship. Diane Lane deliberately played this one on the blank side, letting the “action” come to her and reacting mostly with an unreadable pleasant expression and little else. She knows she he represents every woman in the audience – “no, no. We have to get to Paris … oh, I guess it would be all right if I have a five-star meal in front a painting backdrop while a Frenchman tries to seduce me …” What’s not to like, right? As long as I don’t have to do anything -including express a genuine opinion- it’s great when people treat you like royalty, no?

To be honest, my favorite part was when Jacques’ Peugeot 504 broke down. My first car was a Peugeot; that’s the part I remember most about it.

As fantasies go, you can do worse than the scenic-route-to-Paris. But you can get most of this movie out of a brochure. Paris Can Wait reminds me of the time Marge Simpson goes to the racetrack and asks, “Can’t I just bet that all the horses will have a fun time?” This film bills itself as comedy/drama/romance; I’d really love some evidence that any of these took place.

France, land of wine and escargot
The romance of touring by Peugeot
Will Anne fall to Jacques?
Mild Gallic crock
The film ends before we get to the show

Rated PG, 92 Minutes
D: Eleanor Coppola
W: Eleanor Coppola
Genre: Passive fantasy
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: People working their way up to actual romance
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: Plot junkies

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