Michelle Pfeiffer – This One's on Her
New York magazine|April 12-25, 2021
A melancholy farce is nearly capsized by its star.
By Alison Willmore

There has always been a bit of the vulpine to Michelle Pfeiffer; there are traces of it in the impossible angles of her cheekbones and the potential for sharpness in her smile. But in French Exit, her character, Frances Price, might as well be half-fox with the Upper East Side as her henhouse of choice. She bursts into the movie in a flurry of russet tones and fur, loping down the hallway of a boarding school to extract her young son, Malcolm, against the protests of the flustered administrator. Frances, a notorious Manhattan socialite whose encounters always end with an implied snap of the teeth, doesn’t seem to have been much of a presence in the kid’s life until that point, but she wins his loyalty forever with a sly offer of “Want to come away with me?” You can’t blame him for being swept up—his mother is a thrillingly undomesticated presence in their stuffy world of wealth, exuding adventure and chaos.

When the film picks up years later, though, it finds Frances broke and in retreat. “My plan was to die before the money ran out, but I kept and keep not dying, and here I am,” she tells the financial adviser who has been overseeing her late husband’s estate. She’s not joking. When her best (and only) friend, Joan (Susan Coyne), offers to let her use an apartment in Paris, Frances hops on a ship with Malcolm (now played by Lucas Hedges), their cat, and a bag of her remaining cash, harboring vague ideas about ending things there.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM NEW YORK MAGAZINEView All

The Fixer

DJ Khaled is not a rapper. But he does always seem to know a guy.

6 mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021

Science of Us: Katie Heaney

The Clock-Out Cure For those who can afford it, quitting has become the ultimate form of self-care.

6 mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021

THE Destroy-It-to-Save-It Plan FOR East River Park

The city’s first real battle over climate adaptation has arrived.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021

You'd Be an Iconic Guest

A ruthless Instagram interviewer brings her knowing wink to cable.

5 mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021

The Great Indoors

A critic reacclimates to the now-unfamiliar terrain of the dining room.

4 mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021

Political Animals: Olivia Nuzzi

The Crisis Crisis How the White House polices language in Washington—including the president’s.

6 mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021

What Was the Office?

It Was Stressful, Filthy, High Stakes—and Where the Action Was

10+ mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

ANDREW YANG'S INSIDER CAMPAIGN

How did a former CEO of 100 employees become the front-runner to govern a city of 8.5 million? Not simply by being a national celebrity and an excellent campaigner.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021

The Group Portrait: Little Pot

The activists and entrepreneurs intent on making New York’s new cannabis industry more equitable, less corporate.

2 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

Tech vs. Journalism

Silicon Valley feels picked on by “woke” journalists “who can't code." Reporters feel picked on by petty zillionaires with anger-management problems. Inside the nasty clout battle for how the world’s most influential industry gets covered.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
May 10 - 23, 2021