Much like Jack Reacher: Never Look Back and The Lost City of Z (probably my least favorite and most favorite films of the year thus far) I chose to see Lost in Paris because I needed to review a movie this weekend and there were no flicks in theaters I was particularly looking forward to, so I took a gamble. In some ways these gamble films are some of my favorite, because I am generally watching something a little out of my normal wheelhouse of big blockbusters and smaller art house. Lost in Paris took me even further from my regular sphere than Reacher and Lost City. I can’t think of any current releases that would even exist within Lost in Paris’ wheelhouse.
I knew a little about the film going in, particularly that the two directors, Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel (they doubled as the film’s leads: Fiona and Dom) were expert physical comedians (I read somewhere they were trained in circus arts but can no longer find the article, so take that with a grain of salt). They deliver a series of fantastical gags, and Lost in Paris feels more than anything like a Chaplin film — Dom takes on the role of rascally tramp, and Fiona doesn’t exactly answer him by playing the straight-woman.
The plot is relatively thread-bare, but that is by design. Fiona’s long lost aunt and childhood hero, Martha (Emmanuelle Riva), writes to her from Paris asking for her help. Martha is getting put into a nursing home, which she finds ridiculous, and asks for Fiona’s help. Fiona leaves the small Canadian town she has lived in her whole life, but by the time she arrives in Paris Martha has gone missing. Instead she finds Dom the tramp, who attempts to win her over while they investigate Martha’s disappearance. It’s a comedy of errors, many misunderstandings, confused identities, near misses, interweaving characters, etc.
But the plot doesn’t really matter. The film instead luxuriates in its world, and it’s a good choice. It seems Fiona needs to open herself up to the world… but maybe only a little. She is naive and innocent but a little high strung when the movie begins, the opposite of both Martha and Dom, who take life as it comes. This laissez-faire attitude can be infuriating in others, but it’s not a bad way to live, particularly not in the Paris presented in the film. Dom, Fiona and Martha are the most outsized characters in the film, to the point where I was afraid I might end up sitting through late Wes Anderson levels of quirkiness. Luckily the extras are much less odd while still retaining an inherent decency. When a man ends up accidentally with Fiona’s phone after she falls off a bridge, he attempts to chase her down and return it to her, but when she gets too far away he throws it out. A waiter, when tipped enough, is willing to feed a dog outside the restaurant steak, but will not relent on the rules to the degree of actually allowing the dog in the restaurant. The world is kind and surreal but never off the wall zany and the mix between the grounded and the absurd make the world fun to be in while still giving it weight and never making it too grating.
The grounded world around them allow Dom, Fiona, and Martha the opportunity to fluctuate between emotional beats and great visual gags and performance. Even within their world they are slightly exaggerated people, but that’s a character choice. They have a joie-de-vivre, and it infects all the decent people around them, producing some of the films best jokes. In a restaurant with too much base Dom keep re-directing the speaker, causing different families to bounce in their seats in time with the music as they continue to eat their meals. At a funeral where no one steps up to do the eulogy Dom decides to take it upon himself, starting with a bland but kind eulogy (she was kind, would loan you money, always a helping hand) before getting caught up in his story and delivering tirade about the deceased declaring her racist and exposing her supposed hatred of homeless people. Both Fiona and Martha get charming dance numbers. These are moments worth saying yes to, worth going to Paris for.
If the film has any fault, it’s that it just doesn’t cram quite enough in. The pace is relaxed, and that’s fine, but the visual and physical comedy is so great it leaves you wishing there was much more of it. It’s a small complaint, but at only 83 minutes (a nice fleet running time I know Sam would be happy with) the film felt a smidge long, something that could have easily been overcome had it included just a few more great laughs.
But that’s a small complaint. Lost in Paris is a unique film in this day and age. It is pleasant and a little dispensable, but that’s what it’s meant to be, because that’s the way its characters seem to view the world and their lives. Most of all, it’s about being decent and doing your own thing, both things the film itself does admirably.
This film lost but then found seven out of ten stars in Paris!
- The very first few sets really did have me geared up for Wes Anderson foolery, but they are pretty great sets. One of them is a very nifty miniature of a canadian town, which is always cool.
- Just because I mentioned it up top, and because it’s just about half way through the year, my contenders currently for best film of the year are Logan and The Lost City of Z. Excited to see what the summer throws our way though.
- Good news – they found those teens stuck in the catacombs under Paris. This is news that pops up frequently if you google “Lost in Paris” on June 17th and 18th, 2017.