Updated: Aug 8, 2021
A cat and Paris help Michelle Pfeiffer make a French Exit. And she in turn helps make the movie succeed.
Pfeiffer brings ideal qualities for playing her distinct role, a high society socialite famous over many decades for her remarkable beauty. Just as Pfeiffer repeatedly demonstrates selective intelligence in the roles she plays, her character Frances displays unique perception. The elegant Frances knows how to rise above the mundane and expected as she pursues a life full of material pleasures.
Realizing the precarious state of her finances, she makes a quote “French Exit,” or quick departure without any formal goodbyes. Joined by her adult son and a black cat, she heads to a friend’s apartment in Paris, with frequent off the wall experiences surrounding her. Slightly surreal with humor resembling farce, French Exit amuses those able to laugh at events that lack slapstick, physical comedy.
Adapting his novel, French Exit author Patrick DeWitt provides a mix of oddball situations and clever dialogue. Director Azazal Jacobs handles the material with an appropriately light touch, benefitting tremendously from cast members who stay in tune with the story’s eccentric elements. Lucas Hedges of Manchester by the Sea adds Pfeiffer to his growing list of impressive screen mothers, having already played son to Frances McDormand and Julia Roberts in other movies. Another cast member, Tracy Letts, uses his sonorous voice to good effect.
But of course, a star vehicle for the luminescent Pfeiffer means the actress stands out and carries the film with the grace and style that made her a star decades ago. Not considering herself as one of the great unwashed masses, Frances as played by Pfeiffer, comes off as a woman who remains remarkably accepting of others, a trait that makes her ultimately likeable. The actress brings a knowing weariness to the role as a woman who understands where life has taken her. That place may seem bizarre to some—but it also proves an amusing respite from a world full of serious catastrophes.