Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
The SWITCHCast team reunites for a special episode to celebrate this year's Oscars! Click here to listen now.x
review, French Exit, French, Exit, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Valerie Mahaffey, Susan Coyne, Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, Isaach De Bankolé, Daniel Ditomasso, Eddie Holland, Azazel Jacobs, Comedy, Drama film rating




By Daniel Lammin
15th March 2021

Successfully playing with the surreal and ridiculous requires the steadiest of hands. When they're employed lazily, they can be amusing at best, off-putting and incongruous at their worst, but used carefully, they can allow us further in to the inner lives of the characters, amplify the thematic intentions of the film and offer moments of wild, thrilling entertainment. 'French Exit', the latest film from director Azazel Jacobs, sits very much in the latter camp, offering one of the most purely entertaining and surprising films of this year so far.

Widowed New York socialite Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer, 'Batman Returns', 'Dangerous Liaisons') has been living for many years off her inheritance from her deceased husband, along with her unusual son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges, 'Ben is Back', 'Lady Bird'). When the money finally runs out, Frances and Malcolm take up the offer of Frances' only close friend Joan (Susan Coyne, 'The Man Who Invented Christmas') to live in her apartment in Paris. Selling everything and hiding their cat, they relocate to Paris, where Frances' eccentricities bring a whole new collection of characters into their lives.

Adapted by Patrick DeWitt from his own novel, 'French Exit' has a gorgeous theatricality mixed with a careful cinematic eye; a mix of Moliere, Pinter, Chekhov and Christopher Durang. Frances' journey is an eternal search for a quiet place to just live her life as she pleases, and the beauty of that journey is that it is one she so thoroughly does not want to be on. She is a woman of enormous privilege which blinds her - along with her malaise and mental illness - from the sudden and crushing entrance of reality. Even in the midst of homelessness, she refuses to accept her change of circumstances, and in many instances, seems intent to help her destruction along. Frances has had enough of the world, of the exhaustion of human interaction and the complications of relationships. In fact, she'd rather like to leave it as soon as possible, with Malcolm her only kind of anchor, but try as she might (and by god, she tries), she cannot help the pull of life and connection, and the quiet beating of a good-hearted nature she'd rather ignore. Those that are pulled into her and Malcolm's orbit are likewise looking for somewhere and someone to belong to, including the even-more eccentric Madame Reynard (Valerie Mahaffey, 'Sully') and Malcolm's confused and put-upon maybe-fiancee Susan (Imogen Poots, 'The Father'). As the film trots along at a lively pace, a newfound family begins to amass in the Paris apartment, a warm and wacky collection of lost souls with the begrudging Frances at the centre.


These ingredients would be enough to make for a charming character piece, but where 'French Exit' excels in its embrace of magic realism and the surreal. It begins in Jacobs' approach, the careful way in which he and cinematographer Tobias Datum frame every shot, a marriage of Wes Anderson and Edward Gorey. Datum fills many of the interior spaces with shimmering artificial light, giving an almost magical quality to production designer Jean-Andre Carriere's gorgeously realised rooms. It's also there in the performances, perfectly calibrated to fall in line with the tone of DeWitt's script and Jacobs' direction. There's always a touch of the unreal about 'French Exit', and this serves it beautifully when the touches become dollops. We're gifted to a delicious series of surprises, some gorgeously strange and others outright bonkers, but the film has earned all of them and thematically justifies them.

Central to its success is the spectacular performance from Michelle Pfeiffer, proving once more (as if we need reminding) what a singular and stellar actor she is. Frances, a maniacal vision with red hair and expensive furs and an eternally-lit cigarette, gives Pfeiffer the opportunity to indulge in the kind of delectable camp she always excels at, chewing every piece of scenery in her path while never losing sight of Frances' melancholy and tragedy. Amid the withering looks and devastating put-downs, Frances is in pain; a lost woman seeking something to give her life some sense of meaning and purpose, to be seen and loved and appreciated. She's a pissed-off Blanche DuBois in the autumn years of her life, desperate for something she can't define and with absolutely no patience for the bullshit that comes with having to deal with other people. Pfeiffer knows exactly what this character and this film needs, and every moment she appears on screen is undiluted, uninhibited joy. She's beautifully matched by a supporting cast that eventually transitions to her ensemble - Lucas Hedges lets his hair down (literally and figuratively) as Malcolm, reminding us how sardonically fun he can be when he's allowed to, and Valerie Mahaffey milks every hysterical moment she appears with such astounding skill that you can't imagine how anyone kept a straight face on set. Acknowledgement must also be made to Frances and Malcolm's cat, Little Frank, the unexpected delight (and centre) of the film.

It had me roaring and cackling with laughter, totally enchanted by its irreverence and good humour.

I really can't do justice to just how thoroughly entertaining a film 'French Exit' is. It had me roaring and cackling with laughter, totally enchanted by its irreverence and good humour. You feel as if you're watching a great piece of classic theatre, where silly rich white people bumble around in fancy rooms, unaware that they're revealing, with their silly irrelevant lives, just how strange and beautiful life and love and sadness and happiness can be. Michelle Pfeiffer's tremendous central performance, full of camp and acid and sadness, would be enough of a reason to see 'French Exit', but it's all the more rewarding for how complete an experience it is. The ridiculous and the surreal are employed for the purpose for which they are always at their best - to make us laugh at how silly life can be, and sigh at the truth that, no matter what, we want to keep living regardless.

RELEASE DATE: 18/03/2021
CAST: Michelle Pfeiffer
Lucas Hedges
Tracy Letts
Valerie Mahaffey
Susan Coyne
Imogen Poots
Danielle Macdonald
Isaach De Bankolé
Daniel Ditomasso
Eddie Holland
DIRECTOR: Azazel Jacobs
Christine Haebler
Christina Piovesan
Trish Dolman
Katie Holly
Cosmic Sin - A film that delivers on the promise of its title
TRENDINGCOSMIC SINA film that delivers on the promise of its title
Finding You - Fighting for love
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Wrath of Man - Another forgettable addition to the dude crime genre
TRENDINGWRATH OF MANAnother forgettable addition to the dude crime genre
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
25 Free-to-Watch Short Horror Films - The scariest shorts we uncovered online
TRENDING25 FREE-TO-WATCH SHORT HORROR FILMSThe scariest shorts we uncovered online
River's Edge - The kids aren't alright
TRENDINGRIVER'S EDGEThe kids aren't alright
The Land Before Time - 30th anniversary of a breathtaking animated masterpiece
TRENDINGTHE LAND BEFORE TIME30th anniversary of a breathtaking animated masterpiece
Twist - Please sir, can I have a lot less of this?
TRENDINGTWISTPlease sir, can I have a lot less of this?
Waterloo - An epic recreation of the legendary battle
TRENDINGWATERLOOAn epic recreation of the legendary battle
Top End Wedding - Outback fantastic
Red Pill, Blue Pill - 10 films influenced by 'The Matrix' on its 20th anniversary
TRENDINGRED PILL, BLUE PILL10 films influenced by 'The Matrix' on its 20th anniversary
2:22 - Mind-bending metaphysical mumbo-jumbo
TRENDING2:22Mind-bending metaphysical mumbo-jumbo
Citizen Kane - Celebrating the 80th anniversary of the great American masterpiece
TRENDINGCITIZEN KANECelebrating the 80th anniversary of the great American masterpiece
Cross The Line - A gritty descent into a feverish hell
TRENDINGCROSS THE LINEA gritty descent into a feverish hell
The Trouble with Being Born - Controversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
TRENDINGTHE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORNControversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
The World at War - The landmark documentary series restored in high definition
TRENDINGTHE WORLD AT WARThe landmark documentary series restored in high definition
A Guide to Second Date Sex - A quintessentially awkward British romantic comedy
TRENDINGA GUIDE TO SECOND DATE SEXA quintessentially awkward British romantic comedy
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!