Tag Archives: Isaach De Bankole

Exit Stage Gauche

French Exit

by George Wolf

So, it seems your quick, stealthy exit migrates from Irish to French when excess alcohol is not involved.

Good to know, I had to look it up.

Francis Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) certainly enjoys a good martini, but her exit plan is a bit more serious than just ducking out of the local bar unnoticed.

After years of living high as a Manhattan socialite, Francis’s inheritance is nearly gone. So after selling off what they can, Francis and her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) head to Paris to stay in her best friend’s empty apartment. When the last dollar is finally spent, Francis plans to kill herself.

It sounds pretty dramatic, but writer Patrick DeWitt (who also penned the source novel) and director Azazel Jacobs start peppering in the absurdity and black comedy as soon as mother and son are aboard a ship to France.

Malcolm leaves his fiancee Susan (Imogen Poots) behind, and hooks up with Madeleine (Danielle Macdonald) en route. Madeleine is a medium, and she soon becomes Francis’s conduit for summoning the late Mr. Price (Tracy Letts) when his soul returns in a cat.

Pfeiffer is cold, condescending perfection. Francis’s words for nearly everyone she encounters practically drip with contempt, and Pfeiffer is always able to keep the film’s tricky tonal balance from toppling toward either maudlin or silly.

She enjoys a wonderful chemistry with Hedges, who impresses yet again as a young man who is still coming to grips with the lack of affection in his upbringing, his mother’s icy worldview, and how they’ve both affected his ability to relate to other people.

And soon, there are plenty of other people to relate to in the Paris flat. There’s the neighbor who desperately wants to make friends (a scene-stealing Valerie Mahaffey), Madeleine the medium, a detective hunting for the runaway cat (Isaach De Bankole), ex-fiancee Susan and her new man (Daniel di Tomasso), and Joan, who actually owns the apartment (Susan Coyne)!

You’d be quick to label the entire affair a Wes Anderson knockoff if Jacobs (The Lovers, Mozart in the Jungle, Doll & Em) didn’t fill the center with such unabashed heart. The affection between mother and son is never in doubt, and Pfeiffer’s delicious turn makes sure Francis never becomes a villain, just a fascinating and darkly funny mess.

With its self-conscious quirks and surface-level satisfactions, this is a French Exit more obvious than most. But thanks to Pfeiffer and a sharply drawn ensemble, it’s never less than wicked fun.

Family Matters


by George Wolf


Mother of George is a stylish, visual feast, a film steeped in cultural traditions surviving in the modern world, and the universal anguish over complicated life choices.

Isaach De Bankole (The Limits of Control)  and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) are both excellent as, respectively, Ayodele and Adenike, a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn. At their wedding, Ayodele’s mother proclaims the couple’s first son will be named George, a responsibility that weighs heavily on Adenike as the months pass without a pregnancy to announce.

Family and friends present homemade solutions such as fertility blessings and traditional teas, but the situation grows dire. Finally, Adenike”s mother-in-law offers her a shocking solution.

Director Andrew Dosunmu, blessed with the sublime cinematography of Bradford Young, often keeps his camera still, letting the characters move in and out of frame, while embracing the vibrant colors ever present in the traditional garments and in other neighborhood surroundings.  As Ayodele and Adenike continue their attempts at conceiving a child, Dosunmu bathes the lovers in a tender, sensual tableau.

The script, a first from playwright Darci Picoult, is often understated and poetic, but eventually turns to moments of melodrama and contrivance as Adenike becomes more desperate to please her husband and extended family.

Those moments aside, Mother of George is a lush, richly visual work from a director who shows much potential for originality.