French Exit showed at the 58th New York Film Festival in October, 2020. It will open in theaters on February 12, 2021.
"Laughter is carbonated holiness."
– Anne Lamott
French Exit is an impeccable comedy of manners with quirky performances, a witty screenplay, and a melodic musical score. It is the kind of movie you want to see when you need something light and silly to perk up your exhausted emotions. But we must warn you -- behind the humor and the laughs, there is evidence of the bleak sadness and self-destructiveness that comes to those who get too wrapped up in themselves.
Frances (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a 65-year-old widow who has always had more money than she knew what to do with. She lives in a luxurious New York City apartment with her tight-lipped son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) who has no job and has glided through life on the wings of familial wealth. Although Susan (Imogen Poots), his fiancé, truly cares for him, he is too frightened to tell his mother that he is engaged.
Years ago, Frances ruled New York's high society but marred her reputation by mishandling her husband Frank's death. Since then, she has been convinced that his spirit lives in Small Frank, their black cat. Facing insolvency, Frances takes the advice of her financial advisor and sells everything she has. At the last moment, Joan (Susan Coyne), a very generous friend, offers her vacant French apartment as a transitional place for the homeless Frances and her son to live.
"Count your night by stars not shadows; count your life with smiles, not tears."
— Italian Proverb
Azazel Jacobs directs this lively comedy that is based on a novel of the same title by Patrick DeWitt, who also wrote the screenplay. After their arrival in Paris, Frances and Malcolm, who had been living lives of seclusion and isolation in New York City, suddenly find themselves surrounded by a circle of oddballs as strange as they are. They include a shy private investigator (Isaach De Bankole), a psychic (Danielle Macdonald) who leads a séance, and the rival for Susan's affection (Daniel di Tomasso). Perhaps the most fascinating of these strangers is Mme. Reynard (Valerie Mahaffey), who was a huge fan of Frances in New York. Now she wines and dines with them and offers stories and insights about what she observed about Frances. Meanwhile, they all get engaged when Little Frank escapes the apartment to the streets of Paris.
We need more movies like French Exit that enable us to reverence outcasts and strangers like the ones who soon gather in Frances' apartment. Jacobs and DeWitt treat humor as a tool that enables us to see that laughter can foster empathy, kindness, and a generosity of spirit in our everyday lives. We also are thankful that this comedy of manners brings laughter into the difficult places of life, where we need something to help us cope and see past our differences.
French exit is a term that describes the act of leaving a social gathering or bad date without saying goodbye. Mark our words: You will not want to leave seeing this film without saying goodbye!