My mom often sends me newspaper and magazine articles that describe visiting sites in locations all around the world that often go under the radar of the masses. I thought of those articles as I watched this latest Diane Lane movie, Paris Can Wait, about a woman being driven to Paris from the south of France and the stops she and her husband's associate make along the way. They stop at lots of local eateries that always have the best of something (the best cheese, the best fish, etc.), small-town historic sites, and local museums that are so specific yet beautiful that you could never find something quite like them in a big city.
Paris Can Wait requires these often overlooked spots and restaurants to be the stars of the movie; not the actors nor the story, and rightfully so. It is a (justifiably) slowly-paced film with little moving the plot along, and while I am not sure I would seek this movie out to watch again, I do certainly want to visit the places our main actors visit in the movie.
As I watched this movie, I was reminded of a time when I went on a road trip to Indiana with one of my best friends. For privacy's sake we'll call her Anna. This was going to be the first time that Anna and I would take a big trip together, and to make matters more nerve-wracking, it was going to be a road trip. Our friendship was going to be put to the test here and I think we both knew it to some extent. What made me realize our status as traveling buddies was rock solid was when she suggested we leave at 6:00am for an eight hour long trip where we did not need to arrive until 6:00pm. I asked why that early to which she responded in a way that still makes me smile to this day: "Because of the stops we might want to make on the way. If we see a sign for the world's largest Rubber Band Ball, girl, I'm stopping to see the world's largest rubber band ball!". I bring this up because Paris Can Wait is a film whose target audience is most definitely avid travelers. And not just people who want to visit the big places, but people like Anna who embrace the journey as much if not more than the final destination. Sure it will most likely never appear on any Top 10 lists or win any awards, but it's not meant to. It's meant to be a small discovery and it's meant to provide an informal education on places you have probably never heard of unless you live in the area where it was filmed.
As I said before, Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard are not the stars of the movie, nor do they presume to be. I don’t mean to say that they just read their lines and leave rather that they treat their characters with enough care to be authentic people without overshadowing anything. Lane is clearly the observer like the audience while her mock-tour guide Viard is like someone a traveler would briefly chat up with on a trip rather than someone we connect with on any kind of intimate level. The film tries every so often to give us some far away conflict or intimacy, but it does not fit in a film like this. At least the characters recognize that.
Paris Can Wait is a beautifully shot film with a tranquilly optimistic outlook on new places. Thanks to it, I have already made a mental list of the museums, churches, restaurants, and markets to visit on my newly planned road trip from the south of France to Paris and Versailles. If anyone reading this has any suggestions that this film did not cover, then please leave them in the comments below.