French Exit

French Exit

In Theatres: 
Apr 02, 2021
Running Time: 
110 minutes

French Exit is a film that is hard to pin down. On one hand, it’s a grounded look into the lavish world of a New York heiress who is doing everything she can to hold onto her old lifestyle and ways when her money is about to run dry. On the other hand, it also features an absurd cast of characters fit for a Wes Anderson film. While its story might be a little too tedious for my tastes, it’s impossible to ignore the amazing performances by Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges, making French Exit perplexingly intriguing.


Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) is on the verge of running out of money, despite being warned by her financial planner for years, so in a latch ditch effort she sells almost all of her possessions including her house and moves with her son (Lucas Hedges) and cat to Paris to start over in her friend’s apartment. Frances tries to make the most out of her new situation, befriending a unique cast of characters who all bring their own charm and dynamic to Frances’ life and make her question what really was the point of it all along.


Even as I write this review, I’m still trying to wrap my head around French Exit. Michelle Pfeiffer channels her inner Moira Rose but with a humor that is as dry as the martinis that she drinks. At the beginning she’s fully enveloped into her own world and drags her son Malcolm along for the rough ride so much so that he’s afraid to tell her that he’s engaged to his girlfriend. The world revolves around Frances, and her gravity is absolutely captivating. Get too close, however, and she could quickly turn into a black hole that’s impossible to escape. That’s what happens to Malcolm, who leaves his fiancée in New York to be with his mom in Paris.


Their relationship is confusing, especially because the film never clearly explores why they're so close. This despite the fact that it openly recognizes how creepy it looks with one character confusing Malcolm as Frances’ young prostitute. There’s a naivety to Malcolm, who always seems to be under his mother’s wing. He’s surprised when his fiancée moves on with her own life and seems genuinely shocked she wouldn’t wait around for him. The two are tied together at the hip and do everything together, and it’s mostly just accepted as that’s the way it is. There are a few scenes where it comes off as a little creepy, and I wish their dependent dynamic was explored more thoroughly.


By far the strangest aspect of the film are the other characters. The woman who first mistakes Malcolm as a prostitute is actually a medium and eventually befriends both him and his mother, leading to one of the most bizarre scenes where she performs a seance and we learn that the cat is actually her dead husband reincarnated. I’m still not entirely sure if the scene is supposed to be serious or if the girl was conning them. It’s a strange and somewhat disturbing element of the story, especially because it’s so much different than the rest of the film. Besides her, there’s also an old acquaintance of Frances who comes across as more of an obsessed fan than friend as well as a private investigator who inexplicably decides to continue to hang around after he was tasked with finding the medium. By the end of the film, they’re all living and sleeping together in the tiny Paris apartment. Why? Who knows. French Exit leaves you with few answers to questions you didn’t know you would ever have.


All things considered, I couldn’t help but be enticed by the story that was unfolding before my eyes. As outrageous as many of the situations are, French Exit normalizes everything, and nothing is ever that big a deal. The film is very much a slow burn as things unfold, and even then it’s all very subtle. You definitely need to be in a certain mood to watch French Exit, but its performances make it well worth it in the end.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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