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French Exit (NYFF 2020); Azazel Jacobs Once Again Delivers! Grade: B+

Strictly Films welcomes you back, bringing you the finale of this years New York Film Festival! Strictly Films would like to personally thank all those involved in the New York Film Festival, as they’ve done a tremendous job putting this all together virtually. We hope the festival can continue this way, as film loves across other states too can enjoy as well. Hoping things will shape up for the better in New York, as more importantly... REOPEN OUR BELOVED MOVIE THEATERS NOW!

Our last film to discuss from the festival, is our closing entry of the festival: French Exit. It was honestly a bit of a trip to watch this concluding film. For some reason my 4K television would not play French Exit, so I had to turn to my IPAD in which was only on 32% as I was working on reviews all day as well. As near the one hour mark, my IPAD was at a mere 5%, as I had to take up the option of finishing on my IPhone... I guess we had to go out with a BANG apparently.

French Exit tells a story about a mother named Frances (Michelle Pfeiffer) whom lost her husband way back, as she had to serve the main parenting role with her lone son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges). Living in New York for Frances and Malcolm has been simple and lavish, as Malcolm is getting ready to marry his fiancé Susan (Imogen Poots). Plans have changed as it’s discovered that Frances has no more money, as the bank is ready to confiscate her personal belongings and the house. Frances manages to privately sell what she can, as her friend brought her up on a offer, to live in her apartment in France she never uses. So Frances and Malcolm move to France, as Frances does whatever is left of her money, as Frances commits to when the money runs out, she’ll be ready to commit suicide.

The Cinematography was solid, t’was a nice looking film from a visual standpoint. For some reason I felt a Woody Allen vibe to the way this film was shot, whether it be in New York or in France as Allen has made films in both locations, it captures that vibe. The Score was fine, I liked the composed piano tune in this film. The cast all in all was pretty good as a whole. Michelle Pfeiffer playing Frances honestly had a great performance, it compares to the likes of what Cate Blanchett did in Blue Jasmine. Frances has made it by her riches, as she never had to work a day in her life, followed by loving her son Malcolm. But as the riches crumbled, Frances not panicking but not being inspired to live, as she knows in the end the money will soon be gone once again.

What’s particularly interesting about Frances, is even though she becomes fairy wealthy again by selling off her assets, it seems she’s less motivated to live, as she gives away a fair amount of money like it’s nothing. It’s like she really wants to die, as there is no motivation for her to keep on living. Could it be Frances has learned that life has been completely meaningless to her, as not even the love her son has for her, is not enough as well!? Frances is a likable character in which deals with problems and claims she has a mental issue, which I can see why as she has dealing with depression and suicide tendencies. The character is relatable to all those whom feel being alive is unnecessary, as they come to the conclusion there is not much to live for. It’s a feeling in which is troubling, but at the same time in ways we all get to that point in being tired and unmotivated, so we can hope that Frances can see the light as many people do enjoy her company. It says Michelle Pfeiffer is a shoe in for an Oscar nomination, as I do agree.

Malcolm played by Lucas Hedges had a pretty good performance as well, as he had solid chemistry with Michelle Pfeiffer. Malcolm comes as a interesting character, as he’s a matured adult whom has a lovely fiancé, yet still feels entitled to stay with his mother. Where this move to France wouldn’t be much of a deal to Malcolm, as he could just get a place with Susan, the third act reveals why is that Malcolm feels entitled to stay by his mothers side. It’s not a picture perfect mother and son duo, however it’s a relationship in which Malcolm feels like the back bone to her moral purpose in living, which makes Malcolm responsible to be by his mothers side till the end.

Some delightful supporting performances as well. Including Imogen Poots playing Susan, Danielle Macdonald playing the medium, and especially Valerie Mahaffey playing an unexpected pal in France.

Some flaws include the characters being a bit confusing. Plus I wasn’t much of a fan of the ending per say, you understand it however would like to see where modern day Frances ends up, as it’s a bit of a cliff hanger. Azazel Jacobs is a film maker I particularly am much of a fan of. His recent films Terri and The Lovers are both really good comedies, that excel well in the dramatic field. What’s great about Jacobs as a film maker, is the way his films are so character driven, that it honestly lifts up the story. As yet again: I really enjoyed French Exit as well, maybe my least favorite of the three, but it compliments the other two just fine.

The odd ball story in which is fairly dramatic, but displaying solid dry humor was very enjoyable. How the characters are written is done so well, as Jacobs yet again excels as we truly care for our beloved characters. Just watching this mother and son duo was extremely enjoyable, as their interactions with other people can be off-putting as they are in a way a couple of weirdos to society. I do believe majority of the characters in this story do have significant purpose, whether it be our leads, supporting, for even those that are introduced for a brief moment.

One element that was particularly off-putting, was definitely the medium scenes as Frances can speak to her dead husband whom is now inside the body of her pet cat. It could’ve been a total disaster and misfire towards the story, however due to it’s dry silly nature, it however does work as it brings emotion towards our lead characters especially Malcolm.

Sometimes watching our lead character Frances throwing her money away, as she feels more entitled to end her life may feel more frustrating than saddening. I mean you can say she’s got it made with her second chance, with her apartment and a enormous amount of money as you ask why does is she still unhappy? Her unhappiness simply comes with the fact, that at the end of the day it’s going to be gone. But more so she figures there is no moral purpose in her to live anymore, as her mind tells her so, so she figures why not just give this money away, so she can fast forward to her death?!

It’s one of those characters in which your enjoying her, as she has an interesting personality, however feels completely unsettling as the way she brings onto herself, being more encouraged to die just really upsets you. It’s one of those films that not only brings out laughter and joy, however succeeds on a more personal level in the dramatic field, as how the characters are well written brings you more attached to them.

Overall, French Exit was pretty damn good film. I highly recommend checking this one out, I do believe it won’t be released till February of 2021, so make sure you go and support this one. As if you haven’t seen Terri and The Lovers, highly recommend checking those ones out for the time being.

Well that concludes my New York Film Festival journey, it’s been a fun yet exhausting journey, as I’m ready to kick back and relax for a good minute... Oh wait a minute?! Strictly Films will now partake in this years AFI Film Festival, bringing you 22 new film reviews in the span of seven days... Excuse me while I go buy a 6 Pack of Gatorade, the things I do for the love of cinema. -Mitch Smietana

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