This feels like a
European-style movie. First-time
Director and writer Eleanor Coppola (at the age of 80!) presents us with
an old-school kind of “teaser romance”: where
nothing really happens, except what may be going on in the minds of the
characters, that they’re not saying, and maybe what speculation the
viewer might enjoy. There’s
no sex, no nudity, no foul language, no violence, no fantasy sci-fi, no
animation, no CGI: just a very
small, modest narrative about a man and a woman who find themselves thrown
together for a while, and enjoying each other’s company more than
they’d like to admit.
Anne (Diane Lane) is an
attractive, stylish, fiftyish American woman married to a successful film
producer, Michael (Alec Baldwin), who cares for her, but he’s very busy,
and very stressed. She’d
decided to go with him on this European trip, since their only child, a
daughter, had just gone off to college, and she was kind of at loose ends.
But an ear infection kept her from getting on the plane to Morocco
with him. No worries, his
French business partner, Jacques (Arnaud Viard), was driving back to
Paris, anyway, and he’d be happy to take her along.
But Jacques, it seems, is the
textbook Frenchman: very
interested and knowledgeable about French wine and cuisine, and French
history, and anxious to introduce his American traveler to some of the
out-of-the-way gourmet restaurants that she wouldn’t otherwise have
noticed. Jacques seems to have
friends everywhere. He’s a
bachelor, never been married, no kids, but does have a nephew he dotes on.
Jacques will stop along the way to pick up roses.
And chocolates. And ear
drops for Anne. He drives an
old Peugeot convertible, and loves listening to Mozart, and driving with
the top down, to take in the fresh air of the Bordeaux countryside.
Anne and Michael are calling
each other regularly, but he’s always breathlessly telling her about the
latest crisis on the movie set, while she’s luxuriating in quaint
roadside cafes, and once, when the car breaks down, having an impromptu
picnic along the Seine. (Jacques
just happened to have brought along a fine selection of wine, cheese, and
grapes). The narrative is from her point of view, including much
untranslated French dialogue, where she just has to kind of figure out the
gist of what’s being said.
Yes, she is flattered by all
the attention, and charmed by his cosmopolitan company.
But is this going to jeopardize a 20-year marriage?
Director Coppola, yes, the
wife of Francis Ford Coppola, says that she spent the first part of her
life making a home for her husband and children, as she felt she was
expected to do. She casts Anne
as someone who’s enjoying just getting out and seeing the world a bit,
as if she were-----a slightly bored homemaker whose last chickadee just
flew the nest. Not
exactly naughty, but at the very least, feeling free to spread the wings
and fly a little bit. But not,
like Icarus, too close to the sun.
The pacing is very
deliberate, almost purposefully slow and easy----like Jacque himself.
It’s the kind of movie that could have been made in the 1940’s
or 50’s, and we wouldn’t have known the difference. It’s not exactly
exciting. It plays happily on
the subtle and sublime side. It’s
a definite change of pace.