By Lynn Venhaus
The filmmaker tries to sell the upper-class heroine as an eccentric, free-spirited widow that’s a cross between Auntie Mame and a Wes Anderson movie character but she is such an insufferable spoiled snob that it’s painful to watch.

Frances Price is a 60-year-old penniless Manhattan maven (Michelle Pfeiffer), her inheritance all gone from her late husband Franklin, decides to move to Paris, where a friend lends her an apartment. To make the transatlantic jump happen, she sells her possessions, then takes her cat, Small Frank, who may have assumed the spirit of Franklin (Tracy Letts), and her directionless son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) with her. She attracts an odd assortment of people along the way.

As played by the miscast Michelle Pfeiffer, the annoying socialite has absolutely no redeemable qualities. She’s rude to kind people – you’ll wince when she is mean to the sympathetic and lonely Madame Reynard (Valerie Mahaffey, in the film’s best performance). Frances, who must have always gotten by on her beauty, likes causing a ruckus because she can.

In a flat screenplay adapted by Patrick DeWitt from his 2018 international bestselling novel, Frances gained notoriety 12 years ago when she discovered her husband dead in bed and still went away for the weekend instead of attending to the pertinent matters at home. DeWitt’s principal characters are too remote to care about, not to mention hedonistic.

The ubiquitous cat, as voiced by the droll Tracy Letts, brightens up this off-putting tale, but it is such a jarring shift in tone and a bizarre addition to the third act, which keeps going like a runaway train until we hit 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Lucas Hedges does himself no favors by playing the dullard son. He lumbers through this film with neither wit nor grace, which is so rare after his stellar work in “Manchester by the Sea,” “Boy Erased,” “Waves” and “Lady Bird.”

Malcolm, who doesn’t show emotion, is such a blank slate that it is not evident he is in love with Susan (Imogene Poots), and that subplot resurfaces when his former fiancé arrives in Paris, but it’s a tedious distraction because it doesn’t resemble any kind of relationship among healthy adults.

There is a random detour with Madeleine the Medium (Danielle Macdonald) that he meets on the cruise to Europe that goes nowhere, except for introducing the supernatural so the cat can be a bigger part of the story.

Now, Manhattan and Paris are exquisite locations, therefore the cinematography by Tobias Datum makes the cities inviting and luxurious.

But this is such a strange hodge-podge of rich people lifestyles that the after-thought style of director Azazel Jacobs doesn’t connect at all. Most of all, the pacing is maddening and the insipid characters forced on us are not worth our attention and time. Are they playing it deadpan or are they really deadbeats? We’ll never know and it doesn’t matter. 

“French Exit” is a 2020 comedy-drama directed by Azazel Jacobs, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey, Imogene Poots and Tracy Letts. Rated R for language and sexual references, it’s run time is 1 hour, 50 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: D. Opened in theaters April 2.

By Lynn Venhaus
Without sentimentality, “The Father” depicts a man’s growing dementia and the sheer terror of the disorientation he feels as he doesn’t realize what is happening as he loses his grip on reality. In a bravura performance, Anthony Hopkins draws us into his world as we are caught as off-guard as he is.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is a learned, successful man who refuses his daughter Anne’s (Olivia Colman) assistance as he ages. He begins to doubt her and other loved ones as he tries to make sense of what’s going on around him. The story is adapted from the play by Florian Zeller, who has directed this film

Many families endure these same situations as matriarchs and patriarchs age, so this is a relatable journey that hits close to home as we watch a proud, intelligent, successful man decline and his family feels helpless in response.

Because of the film’s honesty, it is a hard watch, but its shared humanity is what gets us through the experience.

Florian Zeller, who wrote the 2012 play, “La Pere” in his native tongue, won the 2014 Moliere Award for Best Play in France. The play went on to open in London and on Broadway, with Frank Langella winning his fourth Tony Award for his performance as the title character.  The English translation by playwright Christopher Hampton, Oscar winner for “Dangerous Liaisons,” is what is used for the film adaptation.

With sly editing and deft production design, we are kept guessing about the time and place, and what’s going on in Hopkins’ residence and in his head.

Because it is adapted from a play, “The Father” can’t really outgrow its stage constraints.

The ensemble is first-rate, particularly Olivia Colman as his adult daughter. We feel her pain acutely.

Both Hopkins and Colman have received much acclaim for their performances, and with Oscar nominations March 15, one can predict their names will be on the short lists.

While Hopkins, one of our finest actors, has an incredible range as a performer, it is in this film’s final 10 minutes where he gives everything he is capable of and leaves us shattered.

As “The Father,” it is perhaps his best work in a storied career, including an Academy Award for the creepiest villain of all-time in “The Silence of the Lambs” and last year’s Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in an astute portrait of former Pope Benedict in “The Two Popes.”

This is a film that will linger for a long time.

“The Father” is a 2020 drama directed by playwright Florian Zeller. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss and Imogene Poots. Rated: PG-13 for some strong language, and thematic material, its runtime is 1 hour, 37 minutes. It is in theaters on March 12.