Movie review: 'Paris Can Wait'

Jeff Reed

“Paris Can Wait” alright. For home viewing. By the filmmaker at her family vineyard. Unlike the wine its leads imbibe again, and again, and again, this film never should've been allowed to breathe.

With the pulse of a pet project, “Paris Can Wait” is so fundamentally flawed it's an excruciatingly embarrassing experience. And that's probably because one-time documentarian and first-time movie writer, director and producer Eleanor Coppola has none, other than being married to Oscar-winning director and writer Francis and mother of nominated director and awarded writer Sofia.

If anybody in “Paris” deserves an award it's Diane Lane, who manages some sweet notes as attention-deprived Anne. Alec Baldwin phones it in, literally, as her hurried Hollywood husband Michael, whose business partner, Jacques (Arnaud Viard), is a food-obsessed fornicator hungry for Anne. With story ingredients straight out of a basket from “Chopped,” it's hard to tell whether Anne is the apple of Jacques's eye or just a piece of meat.

Jacques gets his taste test when an earache, of all things, prevents Anne from following Michael to his Budapest film set. In benevolently buying her eardrops, Jacques does what Michael can't: He listens. But when the flirtatious Frenchman does commune, the dialogue is just dreadful. “My ears were killing me,” Anne says. (Mine too.)

The sights also required seemingly little strain. Rather than Anne take the train to Paris, Jacques suggests a taxi — his own. So they embark on a countryside slog, stopping to sightsee, snap amateur stills and snack, sup and sip meal after meal in restaurant after restaurant. Her destination “can wait” while Jacques makes his adulterous appeals over appetizers.

When Coppola's not piecing Anne's novice photos into freeze-frame cuts, she's pouring her cinematic soul into scrutinizing shots of wine, cheese, and — spoiler alert — chocolate, Anne's favorite. As a partner in Francis Ford Coppola Winery, it's almost as if Eleanor Coppola's passion is food, not film. It's the kind of love found in fried chicken, which Anne so ruefully recalls in a pretentious punch at her native Cleveland.

If it weren't for such filler, the 90-minute “Paris” would clock in at a solid amateur hour. The time devoted to their dining and driving should've been spent on exposition for why Jacques is even out to steal Anne. Instead, when one of the playboy's past flames appears, we get a fervent account of the best things about fava beans.

Indeed, "Paris Can Wait" is more fitting for the Food Network than a feature film. And even then, cooking shows have better editing etiquette, story structure and emotional appeal than this half-baked entree.

“Paris Can Wait”

Opens Friday

1 star out of 5