From “Ringing Your Curtain Down“, posted on 10.11.20: “The reviews are correct, the rumors are true: Michelle Pfeiffer has lucked into the best role of her life in Azazel Jacobs‘ French Exit (Sony Pictures Classics, 2.12.21), a sardonic “comedy” with a gently surreal quality around the edges.
“Which means that it’s not all that surreal, or at least not to me. A talking deceased husband (Tracy Letts) inhabiting the body of a cat or cryptically conversing with his widow and son during a seance…whatever. What French Exit is really about is dry gallows humor by way of a certain kind of “I won’t back down” resignation. And within that particular realm it’s very, very good.
“If you’re going to make a bitter-end comedy with this kind of attitude or philosophy, you need to own it — no excuses or mitigations, no second thoughts, no third-act softenings. If nothing else French Exit is self-aware and highly confident, and therefore by any fair standard a first-rate effort. Is it ‘funny’? Well, not actually but it’s good company as far it goes. I was smirking. I was never bored. At the very least I was intrigued.
“Exit is about Pfeiffer’s Frances Price, a suddenly destitute, formerly wealthy widow in her mid ’60s who decides to move into a friend’s Paris apartment with her extremely passive son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) after learning that her once-ample bank account is all but empty. It’s also about how she does absolutely nothing to save herself. In fact she hurries the inevitable along.
“But Pfeiffer really goes to town. She delivers every line with just the right shadings of jaded indifference, except it’s not a cold performance. It’s sly and fetching. You could almost say that Frances is a little bit like the Margo Channing role was for Bette Davis in All About Eve (’50) — a snooty bitch with nearly all the great lines. It absolutely represents a Best Actress Oscar nomination, and perhaps even a win. She’s as much of an assured contender as The Father‘s Anthony Hopkins.
“The difference is that Davis was full of bite and gusto in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s 1950 classic while Pfeiffer is, like, really laid back in Jacobs’ film. So laid back that the only real observation or question about Frances is ‘okay, she’s having her fun because she really doesn’t give a shit and is comfortable with Parisian finality, so what method will she choose?'”