French Exit

on September 12, 1995 by Kim Williamson
A usually amiable but certainly inessential story about courtship and career connivery in Hollywood, this film by Daphna Kastner (Miramax's upcoming "Spanish Fly") boasts an engaging cast but never develops the slightest authenticity. Although the Montreal-born Kastner has spent a number of years in Tinseltown (appearing as one of the Jaglomettes in "Eating" and "Venice, Venice"), her capturing of the Hollywood party scene--the key loci of "French Exit's" action--has all the reality of an Omaha high-schooler's take on what life must be like in L.A. The overstory--struggling screenwriters Davis ("The Odd Couple II's" Jonathan Silverman) and Zina ("Dream Lover's" Madchen Amick) meet curt but end cute--never seems interested in paying attention to experienced human emotion; it rings with all the depth of two little girls playing with Ken and Barbie, imagining what love will be like when they're grown up in 10 years.
   Still, "French Exit's" lack of reach pays pluses; because it tries to do so little, it doesn't leave audiences disappointed. It's just another of those unreleased flicks (Keystone made this item in 1995) made by well-meaning folks who desperately want to make movies but, given cast and camera, then have nothing to say. Not only the leads but the supporting cast deserve praise; Silverman and Amick prove genial to watch, and Molly Hagen as Alice, Zina's untrustworthy best friend/struggling casting director, Vince Grant as Davis' British bud/struggling actor and Kurt Fuller as a power producer (who, strangely, hangs with these nobodies) provide interesting turns.
   There's a scene midway through "French Exit" in which the film suddenly finds itself on the precipice of disaster: A real moment happens. Zina interrupts a conversational flow with Alice to ask her whether Alice ever cleans her hairbrush, which Zina has borrowed. As delivered by Amick, it's marvelously simple, but it pricks moviegoers to realize what they could instead be seeing onscreen. Fortunately, Kastner makes amends later in her scenario; when Zina comes to suspect Davis of sleeping with Alice, based on strands in his hairbrush, it becomes obvious that the earlier moment was just a plotpoint--an accident made while scripting fake life not to be repeated. "French Exit"--a term for leaving a party without saying any goodbyes--can be expected to do just that at the boxoffice. Starring Jonathan Silverman and Madchen Amick. Directed by Daphna Kastner. Written by Michael A. Lerner and Daphna Kastner. Produced by Zachary Matz. A Cineville release. Romance. Rated R. Running time: 87 min.
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