Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2016. Lifetime Films, American Zoetrope, Corner Piece Capital, Protagonist Pictures, Tohokushinsha Film Corporation, A+E Studios. Screenplay by Eleanor Coppola. Cinematography by Crystal Fournier. Produced by Eleanor Coppola, Fred Roos. Music by Laura Karpman. Production Design by Anne Seibel. Costume Design by Milena Canonero. Film Editing by Glen Scantlebury. Toronto International Film Festival 2016.
Diane Lane has accompanied movie producer husband Alec Baldwin to the Cannes Film Festival and is now about to fly with him to the location of a film he is producing, but her earache is too painful for her to get on a plane. They were to fly to Paris after his work duties were done anyway, so she insists he go alone and she’ll drive to the capital and meet him there since his colleague (Arnaud Viard) has offered to take her in his car. The charming and adventurous Viard insists on making a number of stops along the way, extending a drive that was supposed to be a few hours long into days of exploring various beautiful towns, visiting tourist attractions (the Roman aqueduct is a wonderful sequence) and eating a great deal of the delicious food that can be had along the way. Lane is hesitant about delaying her arrival in Paris but, at the same time, can’t help but take up the opportunity to smell the roses with this gracious and increasingly flirty host. Bright, sunny images and a stunning performance by Lane in the lead make Eleanor Coppola’s first feature worth the watch despite some alarming drawbacks: I don’t remember the last time I noticed such a poor command of filming reaction shots, and technological fails like too much time delay when actors are speaking to each other on the telephone come off as the work of a total amateur (which Coppola, by the way, is not). The dialogue is only ever vaguely accurate in charting the thoughts and considerations of its middle-aged characters, relying too often on cultural cliches (You Americans Are So Conservative We French Are So Passionate blah blah blah) which Viard can’t quite overcome with his stuck-in-first gear performance. It’s like The Trip without the jokes, Le Week-End without the poignancy or Certified Copy without the depth, but if you watch it just to bask in the glory of Lane’s radiant beauty, or if you just want to watch the scenery, you won’t be doing yourself any harm. The inclusion of a cameo by Aurore Clément is a ridiculous moment of disrespect to a great actor, but the sequence where the couple attend the Lumiere Institute in Lyons with a terrific Elise Tielrooy as an old friend of Viard’s is where the film really hits its best stride.