French Exit Parent Guide
It's a tribute to the cast that the absurd lines of dialogue actually work - at least some of the time.
Parent Movie Review
“My plan was to die before the money ran out. But I kept not dying.” With her “plan” in tatters, New York socialite Frances Price is left with huge debts and minimal assets. Accepting a friend’s offer of a vacant Paris apartment, Frances takes her adult son, her cat, and a stash of euros and sails for France.
French Exit is a strange film; part drama, part very dark comedy. At its heart is Frances, portrayed with edgy brilliance by Michelle Pfeiffer. Frances is an intriguing character, erratic, destructive, and painfully vulnerable. Oddly enough, she puts me in mind of Disney’s Cruella de Vil: the two women share a reckless narcissism and a brittle flamboyance Despite Frances’ continual disregard of others, there’s a certain fascination in wondering what outrageous thing she’s going to say next or what social norms she’s going to break. I must admit to laughing out loud at her distinctive manner of obtaining prompt service from a Parisian waiter, a method that is not practicable for the more conventional among us.
With such a flamboyant character at the heart of the story, it’s difficult for other characters to compete for our attention. Lucas Hedges, playing her son Malcolm, doesn’t try, settling comfortably into the role of junior sidekick. She treats him with sardonic, detached affection; he responds with fascinated, bemused loyalty. Throw in a faithful old friend from New York (Susan Coyne), a needy new friend in Paris (Valerie Mahaffey), a fortune telling medium (Danielle Macdonald), and a private investigator (Isaach De Bankolé) and the film has plenty of oddball characters to flesh out the story without taking Frances’s place in the sun.
The movie’s talented cast is sabotaged by the mannered style imposed by the script and director Azazel Jacobs. It’s a tribute to their ability that pretentious lines of unrealistic dialogue actually work. (Not all the time, but often enough to keep the film afloat.) What none of the actors can save, however, is a downright weird subplot involving Frances’s cat. I’m not going to give any spoilers, but this storyline moves well past quirky and into ridiculous.
Intensifying these problems are serious content concerns. There are almost non-stop scenes of smoking and alcohol consumption, including some where main characters become intoxicated. The film’s profanity, though lacking the ubiquity of many Restricted films, still features a dozen sexual expletives. The biggest issues, though, revolve around sex and violence. The potential of suicide runs through the movie, sometimes in an undercurrent, sometimes explicitly. And although there’s no nudity or sex on screen, there is a bizarre moment involving a frozen sex toy in a freezer. Religious viewers may also object to séances which involving communicating with dead (profanity-using) relatives.
Clearly, French Exit earns its Restricted rating and is not suitable for teens. Given its oddly artificial script and mannered style, it’s not going to appeal to a mass audience either. Adult fans of Michelle Pfeiffer or dark comedies may get their money’s worth, but for everyone else, c’est trop bizarre.Directed by Azazel Jacobs. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Susan Coyne, Valerie Mahaffey. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release March 26, 2021. Updated April 10, 2021
Rating & Content Info
Why is French Exit rated R? French Exit is rated R by the MPAA language and sexual references
Violence: A drunk woman sharpens knives in the dark and accidentally throws it at her son. A woman muses about setting a building on fire with people trapped inside. There’s mention of a woman’s death. Dead bodies are seen in a medical freezer. A woman sets a flower arrangement on fire. A woman is scratched by a cat. A woman mentions that she plans to commit suicide. A man is involved in a physical altercation with police. There are flashbacks of a dead man’s body. There is talk of a woman killing a cat. An angry man breaks a glass. A man gets punched in the face. A man is slapped across the face.
Sexual Content: A woman jokingly asks her son if he’s menstruating. A man and woman start undressing; sex is implied. A frozen dildo is visible in a freezer. There is a coded conversation about sex toys. A woman mentions men’s genitals in the context of public urination.
Profanity: There are about one dozen sexual expletives and scattered terms of deity, scatological curses, minor swear words, and anatomical expressions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An unhappy woman drinks wine by herself in the dark and gets drunk. Another woman becomes very intoxicated. A main character smokes cigarettes frequently. Many characters drink alcohol frequently in social situations. A stressed physician drinks alcohol and presses it on a young man. A woman drugs her cat’s food. A woman takes unspecified prescription drugs.
Page last updated April 10, 2021
French Exit Parents' Guide
Why does Frances ask her financial advisor to tell her what to do? Do you think that attitude contributed to the loss of her fortune? How does she manage her money in Paris? Why do you think she spends it the way she does?