If the raison d’etre of French Exit was to give Michelle Pfeiffer the floor, then all we can say is “Oui”.

We might have added an exclamation mark, but Frances Price would have disapproved. Frances (Pfeiffer) is a New York City socialite as dry as her martinis. But the good times have run out for the widowed Frances. I am insolvent, she tells her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) with mock amusement and the sad realisation that reality is finally going to catch up with them.

They move to Paris to an apartment owned by her friend Joan (Susan Coyne). Their fellow traveller is a black cat named Small Frank after Frances’s late husband. And oh, Frances believes that Frank lives on in the cat.

Azazel Jacobs’s movie, which is out on BookMyShow Stream, is based on the novel of the same name by Patrick deWitt and the author’s screenplay. A cross-section of characters cross the path of the mother-son pair and supply the droll comedy – a clairvoyant (Danielle Macdonald), Malcom’s great love (Imogen Poots), a Parisian woman who admires Frances (Valeria Mahaffey), a detective tasked with finding the cat (Isaach de Bankole) and Susan’s fiance (Daniel Di Tomasso).

As a tale of whimsy and adventure, French Exit is filled with unexpected moments. deWitt’s screenplay sprinkles fairy dust on themes of ageing, mortality, loneliness and necessary compromise. While the motley assembly of actors perfectly complement each other, the most touching relationship is between the fragile Frances and the sweet-natured Malcolm.

Lucas Hedges beautifully plays the young man who is as devoted to Frances as to the idea of her. Michelle Pfeiffer, in a role of a lifetime, is magnificent in her pronounced hauteur and lightly worn vulnerability. Pfeiffer radiates enough luminescence to compensate for the prosaic filmmaking style and occasionally sluggish pacing.

French Exit (2020).