"French Exit" is a sublime little comedy of manners that sometimes feels like it is traveling on shaky seas.
Fortunately, "Exit" has Michelle Pfeiffer there to anchor it and keep the ship steady - a wonderfully delicious role that is some of Pfeiffer's best work in recent memories. She takes this material and makes it her own - bringing the kind of work that gives this comedy the bite it needs.
In "French Exit" Pfeiffer plays Frances Price, a New York socialite who discovers that she has blown through the inheritance of her late husband and is on the verge of being broke.
Frances decides the best way to face her financial troubles is to flee with her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) to Paris to start anew, despite Malcolm's desire to stay in New York with his fiancée (Imogen Poots).
Director Azazel Jacobs has a knack for films where the characters manage to be totally off the wall yet relatable. He gets to play to that strength here as Patrick DeWitt's screenplay, based on DeWitt's novel, is chock full of people who are battling to improve their social status.
"French Exit" takes a while to find its stride, but once the laughs start to land in the second half they come at a rapid pace - a film that is darkly funny and slightly sinister.
When it is just Frances and Malcolm, the film isn't nearly as sharp. But once this people interact with others who they feel superior to in some twisted way, it's when "French Exit" takes off - and makes great use of Pfeiffer's great performance.
Frances is a woman broken, but trying to hold it together to keep up the world she has built to shelter her all these years. Pfeiffer makes Frances a living, breathing person that the audience can relate to - and manage to both love and loathe at the same time.
Pfeiffer is on another level here, delivering work that takes a ho-hum dark comedy and lifts it into something much more.