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'Paris Can Wait' is a travelogue of French food, drink and romance

Some advice you're going to thank me for: Eat first. You really don't want to attempt Eleanor Coppola's "Paris Can Wait" on an empty stomach. So delicious-looking is the food presented with almost pornographic relish all through the movie's 92 minutes that, if you don't eat first, there's a good chance you'll be starving as you leave the theater. And ready to spend a fortune on an expensive restaurant. Not since Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence" and Gabriel Axel's "Babette's Feast" have I seen food as tantalizing as this.

I was starved after a 10 a.m. screening for heaven's sake.

The movie is, otherwise, a pleasantry notable only for the things in the footnotes: the food, the fact that it is the first fiction feature by 80-year-old Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola, and the first starring role in a while for Diane Lane, 52, one of the most beautiful women in the history of movies.

It's hard, if not impossible, for some of us to trust anybody who's not at least a little bit in love with Lane. Movies have loved her since she was a little girl (her first movie "A Little Romance" landed her on the cover of Time). As a mature actress she is someone the camera was invented for. As always, she is a moving actress, too.

Coppola's camera shows us a lot of ravishing, sun-dappled French scenery and that movie-long procession of glorious-looking French food. Her movie has autobiographical elements. Lane plays Anne, the wife of a movie producer (Alec Baldwin), who loves his wife but neglects her. He's always got places to go and things to do. And planes to catch.

They're in Cannes and on their way to Budapest when an old problem with her ears returns. So she begs off and her husband flies on alone. An old French associate will drive her from Cannes to Paris, where the comfy apartment of another French friend awaits.  She'll get there first and await her husband wrapping his business in Hungary. (Note the country's name. A little joke Coppola played in her script.)

That's the plan but forget it. Her family friend and designated driver has other ideas of what to do while driving her across France in his clunky old Peugeot. Paris can wait, he figures. As a relentless charmer and seducer, he figures they ought to stop at every tourist mecca and every off-the-highway four- and five-star restaurant in the French countryside.

Thereby begins the long parade of  sumptuous-looking food and glasses of some of France's best wines. At every step and during every leg of the trip, he makes it obvious none-too-subtly that he would love to be the one to end his preoccupied old friend's genteel neglect of his beautiful wife.

There are a couple of sad back stories to be told but, essentially, that's the whole film – a foodie's travelogue of the French countryside between Cannes and Paris. It's certainly better than a sharp stick in the eye but, as movies go, it's very much a one-note samba.

There are worse ways to spend 92 minutes than ogling food and scenery and celebrating the return of all-too-scarce actresses. And there's a lot of charm to the ending.

But forgive me in my hunger after the movie, I immediately thought that a good person to write and direct and more complex sequel might be the mature screenwriter, director and vintner Francis Ford Coppola.


"Paris Can Wait"

Two and a half out of four stars

Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin and Arnaud Viard in Eleanor Coppola's romantic comedy about a neglected wife's meandering automobile journey from Cannes to Paris with a flirtatious friend of her husband's. Rated PG for language and smoking. 92 minutes.

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