The French do it better is the lesson writer/director Eleanor Coppla wants viewers to take away from her feature debut. However, what exactly they're supposed to do better is the question. Enjoying life, I suppose, is what the octogenarian and wife of director Francis Ford Coppola is positing. Dressing, eating, touring are other possible answers. But in the 90 minutes Coppola offers as evidence, it seems as if the true skills for a Frenchman are bellyaching, mansplaining and slobbering unsolicited over Diane Lane.
When Lane was 18, she costarred in “Rumble Fish” and “The Outsiders” for Coppola’s husband. Now in her 50s, she's every bit as lively and thoughtful but seems to be experiencing the same trouble finding good roles as most actors of a certain age and gender combination. And it's rare the film that can showcase Lane's darker side, which makes B-fare such as “Every Secret Thing” or “Unfaithful” so watchable.
Keeping in mind Lane's magnetism, it's understandable that Coppola would have wanted to create a vehicle for her. But even more so it seems Coppola may have desired to finally plunder the depths of her own experience and feelings. After all, Lane portrays Anne, the wife of a famous movie producer and neglectful husband (Alec Baldwin). This could explain why Lane's embodiment of the character doesn't feel as unwavering as usual. She stammers through her dialog as if she doesn't quite believe what she's saying.
But all biographical speculation aside, this disconnect could also be the result of the contradictions in Anne's character. For a slick producer's wife, she's pathetically provincial. The problem may be that Coppola herself doesn't know the character, either. Anne's claim toward the end of the movie that she and her husband spend time in their friend's apartment in Paris conflicts with the entirety of the performance that just came before, in which Anne, reluctantly obliging, is tutored in the French way of life by Jacques (Arnaud Viard), her husband's business partner and an absolute boor.
Having pretended to be chivalrous by offering the ailing and exhausted Anne a ride from Cannes to Paris, Jacques alternates between wining and dining and chiding and insulting her. It's as if he desires to winkle his way into Anne's most private thoughts and insecurities with that tiny pointed escargot fork of his just so he can manipulate her into sleeping with him. Anne endures the prodding, as well as the frequent stops and side trips with gritted teeth, eventually even suggests a few off-path destinations of her own. But make no mistake, this isn't romance. It's kidnapping.