Screwball meets surreal in "French Exit" as Michelle Pfeiffer spends and rages in City of Lights
Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Susan Coyne, Valerie Mahaffey, Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, Isaac De Bankolé, Daniel di Tomasso and Tracy Letts. Written by Patrick deWitt, adapted from his novel. Directed by Azazel Jacobs. Opens April 2 at Cineplex Odeon Gardiners Road Cinemas, Kingston, Ontario. Directed by Azazel Jacobs. 114 minutes. PG
Among the many influences director Azazel Jacobs cites for this astringent dysfunctional family comedy are Aki Kaurismäki, Hal Ashby, Ernst Lubitsch, Luis Buñuel and Federico Fellini. Which sounds about right, since all of them approach the essential absurdity of life with a deadpan sense of fatalism. This certainly describes the mood of Michelle Pfeiffer's marvellous Frances, a disaffected New York socialite who is out to spend every last dime of her late husband Franklin's wealth — and maybe join him in the Great Beyond when she's finished. Paris seems as good a place as any to run wild, so Frances heads there, bringing along her slacker son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges, ever earnest), and the family cat, Small Frank, named for Frances' spouse and apparently possessed by his angry spirit (which Tracy Letts voices). Aiding and abetting the caustic insanity are Susan Coyne as a generous pal, Valerie Mahaffey as a lonely expat, Imogen Poots as a frustrated fiancée, Danielle Macdonald as a deadly psychic, Isaac De Bankolé as a dapper gumshoe and Canada's Daniel di Tomasso as an intense arm wrestler. Together they make for a lively film that I'd describe as screwball meets surreal. Pfeiffer is the main draw as she spends and rages, a shooting star in the City of Lights.