“Paris Can Wait” is piffle. But it’s pleasant piffle.
Written and directed by Eleanor Coppola — yes, Francis’ wife and Sofia’s mom and the director of the killer doc “Hearts of Darkness” (about the making of “Apocalypse Now”) — it stars Diane Lane as an American wife thrown together with a charming French fellow for a road trip from Cannes to Paris.
The film will appeal to women looking for a romance with a distinctly feminine perspective, and of course to guys who just like watching Diane Lane.
The film begins on the Riviera where Anne and her producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) have been attending the film festival. The plan is for the couple to fly to Budapest where Micheal has a movie in production, but an earache grounds Anne.
Michael’s business associate Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne to Paris. He’s got a spiffy convertible (which he drives like a teen on his first solo cruise); why doesn’t Anne take the scenic route as his co-pilot?
What was supposed to be a one-day drive turns into an extended trek. Jacques has a decidedly Gallic take on time management and cannot pass an attraction without showing it to Anne. And he has an encyclopedic knowledge of every good restaurant along the route.
“I can’t remember the last time I played hooky in the afternoon,” Anne marvels.
There are stopovers for an awesome ancient Roman aqueduct, and for museums dedicated to the Lumière Brothers (the fathers of cinema) and textiles (one of Anne’s passions).
Not even an engine meltdown on a deserted forest road can cool Jacques’ laid-back attitude: “I have no idea where we are. Let’s have a picnic.”
She replaces a broken fan belt with her panty hose. Learning she loves roses, he fills the back seat with flowers.
And they gorge themselves on one scrumptious meal after another. Not only does Jacques know the best eateries, he’s friends with the chefs, who drag out their secret specialities. Yum.
Little by little Anne’s staid American Puritanism gives way to Jacques’ French charm.
The question, of course, is whether this attraction will result in anything carnal.
Coppola’s screenplay provides both characters with long-ago losses that are still painful and which give them a shared hurt, but overall the tone is light and amusing.
Viard oozes unforced charm as a French Peter Pan. Lane’s expressive features allow her to reveal everything Anne is thinking, from mild amusement at her companion’s half-hearted playboy antics to an interior struggle over whether to have herself a fling.
Great scenery. Great food. Great-looking people.
You could do worse.