Try to jog your memory and recall ...oh, let's say your fifth favorite summer of all time. Not the best and certainly not the worst, but if your lifetime of summers were ranked, this one would come in No. 5. That's about the level of enthusiasm I have for Paris Can Wait. It's a pleasing early-summer diversion directed by Eleanor Coppola and starring the always alluring Diane Lane, who has become the go-to actress of her generation for similarly fizzy films. From My Dog Skip (2000) to Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), Must Love Dogs (2005), Nights in Rodanthe (2008) and A Walk on the Moon (2009), Lane is often cast as a charismatic but isolated woman who is misunderstood by the friends and lovers in her life.
In Paris, Alec Baldwin plays Michael, a movie producer who has just had smoke blown up his ass at the Cannes Film Festival, and Lane plays his loyal wife Anne. Michael is called away to a film set in Budapest. Anne would go with him, but she can't fly because of an ear infection. So, Michael insists she drive from Cannes to Paris with his French colleague, Jacques (Arnaud Viard).
"C'est scandaleux!" you may be thinking, expecting some kind of sordid tryst, but Jacques is as much of a cad as Michael. Jacques' flirtations are clumsy, and he has conveniently lost his credit cards, forcing Anne to pay for their expenses on the road.
The real reason to see Paris Can Wait is the other co-star: food, which defines much of Anne and Jacques' journey. Coppola fills the screen with the celebrated cuisine of the Provence region as Anne and Jacques expand what would typically take eight hours into a two-day moveable feast across southeast France. They fill their bellies as often as they fill the gas tank of the Peugeot they're traveling in. They eat jus d'agneau (lamb), sausages, red mullet fillets swimming in tarragon sauce, endless baguettes, chocolate creme brulee and cheese, cheese and more cheese. The food showcase is so wonderful, the Motion Picture Academy should consider adding a new Oscar category: Best Fromage in a Supporting Role. I will offer a word of caution, however: You should not go see Paris Can Wait on an empty stomach. Thank goodness it opens at the Flicks where you can enjoy French bread, baked brie and a glass of wine while you watch the film. I would not be surprised if, during the run of this movie, those items outsold popcorn at The Flicks concession stand.
For the record, Eleanor Coppola, 81, is the matriarch of the Coppola clan. Her husband is legend Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather saga), and her daughter is Sofia Coppola who, ironically, took home the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year for The Beguiled, which opens at The Flicks later this month. Paris Can Wait is this Coppola's first feature film, but she's no stranger behind the camera lens. She is an accomplished cinematographer, has directed a number of documentaries and won an Emmy for Hearts of Darkness, a chronicle of the making of her husband's 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
Ultimately, Paris Can Wait is not much more than an enchantment of French food. We'll probably forget the exploits of Anne, Jacques and Michael before summer ends, but the cuisine is c'est magnifique.