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Bizarre, very unsatisfying surrealist romp
Azazel Jacobs' new film centers around a wealthy Manhattan socialite, Frances (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her son Malcom (Lucas Hedges.) They both move to Paris together with their cat after the death of Frances' husband. The film's tone is deadpan and absurdist, and almost feels like an uneven and often unfulfilling amalgamation of Woody Allen and Luis Buñuel. But try as it might, the film sorely lacks the intellectual wit of Woody Allen or the intricately clever ambiguity of Buñuel's best films.
The first major problem with the film is that it lacks a clear plot. It contains several short set pieces with slightly-absurd, sarcastic dialogue that could have made for mildly amusing mini-short films (a throwback-style cruise ship en route to Paris, a séancé, cocktail gatherings.) Yet none of them really help hold up the story, much less create a narrative crux to keep viewers engaged. The two main characters are moderately well-developed, but their personalities never feel especially original or unique. Even though Frances has lost a loved one, the film doesn't really have an emotional core or sense of empathy towards its characters. Instead, there's a level of coldness and unreliability even within a darkly comedic context that recalls the polarizing tones of Yorgos Lanthimos' movies. The attempts at surreal humor aren't funny or even clever; as far as dark comedy goes, the film is neither funny enough to feel well-accomplished as an original comedy nor dark enough to feel shocking and tonally opaque. The cast does serviceably fine with the material they are given, but no one gets much of a range here in character. For a movie attempting to come off as sophisticated, it also doesn't leave much for viewers to really think about or interpret underneath its narrative surface either. The only aspects of the film that I can unequivocally commend are the cinematography of Paris as well as the simple yet playfully elegant score.
All in all, this strangely forgettable film (both literally and figuratively) neither has the creativity nor wit to shine as a quirky comedy. There are ingredients here and there that could pack more of a punch within the film if given the right context within a more well-composed story, but without such cleverness, the film feels undercooked as a whole. Not recommended. 4/10
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