A new movie beckons Michelle Pfeiffer fans the old-fashioned way. You can see it only in a theater. Lucas Hedges fans, too.
It’s a bold play in the middle of the pandemic’s vaccination roll-out, but Sony Pictures Classics has determined that “French Exit,” which opens Friday, will screen in cinemas nationwide and be seen in no other fashion. No streaming. No cable on demand. There hasn’t been any indication as to how long the theatrical exclusivity will last.
In “French Exit,” Pfeiffer is everything her fans want her to be. She plays a sharp-tongued, curmudgeonly Manhattan socialite named Frances Price, a once-rich widow running out of money. Her twenty-something son Malcolm (Hedges) is a bit of a layabout with not much direction in life. Ready access to cash, and a permissive parent, will sometimes do that to children of wealth.
Frances is a complete misanthrope; philosophically sardonic and absolutely not a people person. At one point she complains, as only she can: “My plan was to die before the money ran out.” She’s now 60 and still alive. Obviously her life didn’t go the way she had hoped. As a bonus for her, if she wants to think of a good thing, Frances is still remarkably beautiful.
Her husband Franklin (Tracy Letts) has been deceased for twelve years. With her vast inheritance dwindling, Frances sells the last of her possessions. She’s determined to live out her twilight years anonymously in an apartment in Paris, which a friend lets her borrow.
Frances has a black Siamese cat named Small Frank. Her husband’s spirit exists within the ever-present pet, which speaks in Franklin’s voice. The cat also goes to Paris. The story develops from this point. Seances and sarcasm abound, and there’s a sweet Gallic air swirling about the entire enterprise.
The whimsical and delightfully entertaining “French Exit” is directed by Azazel Jacobs and written by Patrick deWitt, based on his novel of the same name. The acting by all is top-of-the-line, the deluxe sets are as comfortable as they look, and the interesting story with its psychic readings and French farce undertones is fun to follow.
Pfeiffer is perfect. Frances’s bad attitude is a wonderfully unique trait for a lead character to have, and the actress plays it for all it’s worth. And yes, she is gorgeous.
As Malcom, Hedges is also excellent. He’s got the privileged person persona down just right. There’s a hint of romance for him because, after all, it’s Paris.
“French Exit” is a charming comic fable that will hold your undivided attention. It deserves to be seen.
HITCHCOCK COMES TO HAMBURG: There’s no denying the importance of director Alfred Hitchcock to the world of motion pictures. He’s one of the legendary masters of cinema. Born in east London, England, Hitchcock wrote title cards for silent films, experimented with sound at the beginning of that era, and created some of the greatest American movies you will see. His television show from the 1950s and 1960s, with its half-hour and hour-long filmed episodes, which unreeled like tense short stories, is still being shown.
Every action thriller made from 1960 onward is influenced by his extraordinarily popular “North By Northwest.” The feature flows as if it were made yesterday. His recurring theme of the man or woman wrongly accused has been material for thousands of books, essays, and college senior theses, mine included.
Hitchcock stated that regardless of where you were watching a movie – in a castle or a jungle, regardless of the language spoken, regardless of the conditions under which the film is being shown, if the sound went out, a great director has made it possible visually to still follow the story.
Hitchcock loved to switch up things. Here’s a trivia question: Why does Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steal the specific $40,000 she does in “Psycho?” It’s because she knows her theft isn’t going to be reported to the police. The cash has been skimmed and is hidden from the IRS. She isn’t stealing for love; she’s stealing because she believes she can get away with it.
The Palace Theatre in suburban Hamburg is dedicating weekends in April to five of the director’s best movies. You will be able to see Hitchcock on the big screen as if it were opening day. The series begins this Friday and Saturday (April 2nd and 3rd) with “The Birds,” (from 1962) starring Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, and Jessica Tandy.
Then it’s Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason in “North By Northwest” (1959) April 9 and 10; James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter in “Rear Window” (1954) April 16 and 17; and Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings in “Dial M For Murder” (1954) April 23 and 24.
The stellar series closes with my favorite Hitchcock film, “Strangers On A Train” (1951), starring Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll, and the director’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock. Its desired exchange of murders, crisscross dynamic, and trains and tennis plot turns will be shown April 30 and May 1.
All shows begin at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for seniors and children. Protective face masks are required except while eating. No outside food or drinks are allowed. Social distancing rules and limited seating apply. Advance tickets are available and recommended.
Michael Calleri reviews films for the Niagara Gazette and the CNHI news network. Contact him at [email protected]