French Exit (2020)
An odd film that leans heavily into the absurd, French Exit is an enigmatic film that features Michelle Pfeiffer’s best performance not only in years, but perhaps in her career.
When her late husband’s inheritance runs out, a widowed New York City staple of upper class Manhatten (Pfeiffer) moves to Paris with her loyal son (Lucas Hedges) by her side. The terms quirky, kooky, and odd continue to invade my perspective of French Exit, floating just above the deep character piece that the film actually is. Pfeiffer’s character is broken, replete with a complicated past and a troubled mindset. Hedges’ role is that of the devoted son who sees his mother for who she is, but remains beholden to her, even at her wildest. There is a love between the two that is outwardly tepid, yet palpably unshaken, evident only because of the strong performances by both Pfeiffer and Hedges. Even as the story devolves into chaotic arcs and humorous subplots, Pfeiffer’s portrayal remains elevated above the rest, the woman that you start out despising, but it ends up endearing itself yo you. Hedges is once again understated in this role, subtly powerful in every word spoken, facial expression stricken, and physical movement enunciated. There is a reason that I expect him to soon be taking home the Oscar in his young career.
French Exit is not for everyone as it is a bit goofier than expected in uniquely nuanced, but quite humorous ways (and features a supernatural element that comes out of left field). But if you pull back those layers and focus on the individuals presented, you find a profoundly moving work that I find to be incredibly relevant and relatable. In any event, Pfeiffer’s performance is enough to set French Exit as one of my favorite films in recent memory for it is a truly intriguing work of art.
French Exit is currently playing in theaters.
Photo from Sony Pictures Classics