“PARIS CAN WAIT” — 2 stars — Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin, Arnaud Viard, Elodie Navarre; PG (thematic elements, smoking and some language); Broadway
For a movie so preoccupied with food, “Paris Can Wait” has a way of leaving you a little empty.
First, we are introduced to an unhappy marriage. Michael (Alec Baldwin) is a successful movie producer and, true to the big screen stereotype, he is permanently attached to his cellphone — in this case, dealing with a difficult production in Morocco — and oblivious to the needs of his doting wife, Anne (Diane Lane).
Anne has recently closed the doors on an upscale dress shop, and taken up the first stages of a photography passion, so she is constantly pulling out a point-and-shoot camera — an odd move, seeing as “Paris Can Wait” is clearly set in the modern age of smartphones — and documenting everything in sight (especially her food).
Michael and Anne are on the French Riviera, bound for Paris once Michael makes a quick detour to Budapest for business. Anne doesn’t see the point in going to Budapest, and rightly assumes that the additional time with her husband will just be spent taking low-resolution images of the interior of their private jet while he talks on the phone. So she decides to take a train directly to Paris, then get some rest while waiting for him to catch up.
Enter Jacques (Arnaud Viard), Michael’s French business partner, and he offers to give Anne a ride to Paris, since he’s on his way there anyway. Michael is a little unsure of the arrangement, assuming that as a Frenchman, Jacques must be genetically wired to chase married women, but he can’t stay off his phone long enough to protest.
So Jacques and Anne climb into a 40-year-old convertible Peugeot and set off on an idyllic road trip. But a few hours on the highway quickly sprawls into a multi-day journey as Jacques takes every available detour to buy food, look at architecture or put water in the radiator of a car that is destined to strand the two of them next to a beautiful countryside vista that just happens to be perfect for an afternoon picnic that Jacques just happens to be fully prepared for.
There’s potential here for a clever and charming story, ripe with humor, and several moments will prompt a smile. But director Eleanor Coppola takes the subject material a little too seriously, and Anne feels a little too willing to give in to Jacques’ stereotypical advances. Plus, for all the fun they are supposedly having, the journey just drags a little too long for the audience, and people will probably just wish they were eating all that great food and seeing all that great architecture rather than spending an hour and a half watching these two flirt with adultery.
“Paris Can Wait” strives for a simple and subtle charm, but only makes it halfway down the road. Unfortunately, the relationship between Michael and Anne never gets the attention it deserves, and the end of the film suggests that Coppola doesn’t want it to.
With a little more conflict, “Paris Can Wait” might have done a better job of keeping its audience locked in, but it is so tension-free that you begin to feel like you’re watching a travel documentary hosted by people who don’t know you’re there.
“Paris Can Wait” is rated PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language; running time: 92 minutes.