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Eleanor Coppola stumbles with ‘Paris Can Wait’

Paris Can Wait Movie POSTER 27 x 40, Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin , A, MADE IN THE U.S.A.Eleanor Coppola is married Francis Ford Coppola and is the mother of Sofia Coppola. So one would think that she might have picked up some pointers from her family when helming her latest, the romantic comedy road film, Paris Can Wait. Well, one would be wrong. It’s shocking how amateurish and sloppy Paris Can Wait is. Coppola assembled a strong cast: Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin, and Arnaud Viard, who each does his/her best, but the actors are stranded with an awful plot and aimless direction. The film is remarkable in that there are no stakes or conflict to speak of, and viewers will only be distracted by the parallel beauty of France and Diane Lane.

Lane stars as Anne, the wife of Michael (Baldwin), a high-power film executive. Michael is busy and we know this because his phone is plastered to his face. When he’s called to Budapest to oversee an overzealous director, Anne begs off the trip and instead agrees to meet him in Paris. Instead of taking the train, she is joined by Michael’s business partner, Jacques (Viard). The two set off on a road trip through France, stopping repeatedly to indulge in decadent meals.

Coppola’s script is plodding and episodic, lurching from one skit to another. It makes the film – which is only an hour and a half long – feel interminable. Each time Jacques suggests a diversion from their drive, Anne rolls her eyes and acts exasperated – and viewers will sympathize as it only puts off Paris, and means the movie will continue. This wouldn’t be an issue if there was any chemistry shared between Lane and Viard, but there isn’t. Jacques isn’t a character so much as a collage of French clichés and stereotypes (right down to his lazy name).

Watching Paris Can Wait is a frustrating experience because the film wastes a wonderful leading lady. Diane Lane – a patron saint of gorgeous, middle-aged women in European county sides – is saddled with a thinly-written character, and does her mightiest to do something with the character, but she’s stranded by Coppola’s indifferent direction and writing, and is gives a performance that looks strained and full of effort. We’re supposed to believe that Anne is a frustrated artist and talented photographer, but her constant picture taking of her sumptuous meals makes her seem more like a boorish American addicted to social media than a soulful creative type in search of an outlet for her talent. And Lane carries with her performance a bit of her patented pensive soulfulness (no one can gaze out into a golden sunset like Diane Lane) Some viewers will think that this movie will revisit some of the charm and winsome loveliness of Lane’s 2003 vehicle Under the Tuscan Sun. But that film – while no where near a classic – is still miles away from stale junk like Paris Can Wait.

Aside from Lane, the other major selling point of the film is the French countryside. The film’s script meanders through the country, from Cannes to Lyon, and through some ridiculously picturesque visions of the French pastoral landscape. Even a filmmaker as inept as Coppola can’t mess up the awesome beauty of France. Unfortunately, the arresting images of France are interrupted by the pointless jabber of Coppola’s writing and the yeoman efforts of Lane and Viard.

Buried underneath the layers of mediocrity is the kernel of a good movie. Coppola’s script needs higher stakes and some conflict. When the ending finally comes and Anne and Jacques come to some sort of revelation, it feels unearned and abrupt. Perhaps worried about Kleenex-thin script, Coppola throws in some heavy tragedy that feels smashed in and is handled so clumsily that instead of being affecting or moving, it feels like incompetent manipulation (though Viard and Lane do their best and just almost manage to push through the awful script to convey some emotion).

Supposedly a comedy, Paris Can Wait is not funny or clever. Nor is it particularly moving or interesting. Instead, it’s a film about two people – who despite being Hollywood beautiful – aren’t all that remarkable. I didn’t care about what would happen to them, nor did I care about how the movie ended. I was just glad when it did.

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The ballad of Piers and Alec

It’s been a rough year for both Alec Baldwin and Piers Morgan. Both suffered some pretty bad press and saw the demise of their talk shows. Baldwin got into some heated exchanges with the press and allegedly called a paparazzi photographer a “f*ggot” and a journalist hack a “toxic little queen.” His low-rated MSNBC talk show was pulled and he was canned. Then he and Shia LaBeouf got into a snit because the two couldn’t get along when rehearsing for a play on Broadway.

Morgan, on the other hand, got into some deep doodoo when he interviewed Janet Mock, who was out promoting a book about her life as a trans woman of color. The show was unfortunately packaged, sensationalizing Mock’s trans status, which resulted in Morgan and Mock trading barbs on Twitter. Morgan further compounded his problems by defending his behavior, digging his heels.

And now both Baldwin and Morgan view themselves as victims.

In a shockingly self-pitying open letter, Baldwin addressed his detractors and the public with a missive complaining about a host of people from Anderson Cooper to Rachel Maddow, all the while, painting himself out to be a hapless, target.

Morgan, on the other hand, complained bitterly about how the trans community bullied him (not seeing the rich irony of a wealthy, white, straight cisgendered man complaining of being bullied by a marginalized group), and when responding to the news of his show’s cancellation, he took on the mantle of a free speech activist cut down because his message wasn’t popular with American audiences.

Because Moran and Baldwin see themselves as victims highlights a blind spot that lots of sinning celebrities share – remember Paula Deen? Though she’s mounting a comeback now, her career disintegrated when revelations of racism came out: while the racism was bad enough, her refusal to acknowledge her role in the scandal and her perennial identification of victimhood showed just how tone-deaf she was – and both Baldwin and Morgan display similar self-centeredness.

What both gentlemen seem to misunderstand is that the public doesn’t think what they did was the worst thing in the world. And both men profess to be LGBT allies, which may explain why they seem to be so blind sided by the criticism. And even though we owe them at least the benefit of the doubt, how they react to the controversies matter. And at least in Baldwin’s case, writing a pissy letter (which includes an unfortunate reference to a transman as a “T*anny”) doesn’t help anything because in the end, he appears like a out-of-touch, spoiled prima donna.

I hope that both Baldwin and Morgan continue their careers. Well, I hope that Baldwin continues – I always enjoyed his work (I thought he was brilliant on 30 Rock). And even though I found Morgan to be a tabloidy schlockmeister, I don’t wish him ill, and know that he’ll find some sort of outlet for his blowhardness.

But they’re not there yet – because both men are still in the mind frame of “woe is I” their efforts to endear themselves to the public will be met with skepticism. If there is one thing I could say to them, it’s this: when you eff up, the best thing to do is to own up to it, apologize, listen to the criticism, and move on, promising you’ll do better…

 

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