French Exit -B
Rated R, 113 minutes
The new dark comedy "French Exit" takes a somewhat absurd yet memorable approach to family, grief and relationships. Directed by Azazel Jacobs ("The Lovers") and based on the book by Christopher Pickett, who also wrote the screenplay, the approach, while flawed, provides some fun moments.
Widowed New York socialite Frances Price (Oscar-nominee Michelle Pfeiffer) and her aimless son Malcolm (Oscar-nominee Lucas Hedges of "Manchester by the Sea") move to Paris with their cat Small Frank after she spends the last of her husband's inheritance.
"French Exit" is a well-acted, humorous portrait of family dysfunction and the unpredictable twists and turns that can come with it. There are some dark shades here to the humor, but some may appreciate it, particularly when it's led by a fabulous performance by Pfeiffer in her best role in years as the socialite nearing the end of her inheritance, and maybe even the end of her life. Hedges, as the estranged son who doesn't quite know what to make it of it all, is also strong.
The film has some fun moments until it takes a wild turn after a seance, led by their medium friend ("Dumplin's" Danielle Macdonald), and it becomes rather absurd when family secrets are exposed through their cat Small Frank, which happens to be a reincarnated version of husband/father Frank, humorously voiced by Tracy Letts ("Ford v Ferrari"). Along with Macdonald and Letts, the supporting cast is stellar, particularly from Emmy-winner Valerie Mahaffey ("Northern Exposure") as their lonely, unusual Paris friend who slowly becomes a trusted confidant.
The uneven second half, after the memorable seance, is less effective than its first half, but "French Exit" is still a delight, made more enjoyable by the colorful turn from Pfeiffer, who needs more blowsy roles like this. Imperfect, but worth a viewing.