Almost Paris is a confounding movie. On the one hand, I like the characters; they’re consistently interesting people. On the other hand, some of the storytelling choices and the editing of scenes are so abrupt and odd that I can hardly make sense of the film as a whole. Directed by Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, Almost Paris is not a bad movie but it’s quite a peculiar movie.
Max (Wally Marzano-Lesnevich) has lost his job and is moving home with his parents, Claire (Susan Varon) and Richard (Adam Lefevre), in Oyster Bay, New Jersey. His sister Lauren and her husband Stephen (Ryan McCarthy) are already there with their five-year-old daughter Rosie (Lily Henderson) and things are strained in the family, to say the least. When everyone began moving back home, mom and dad were in the midst of selling their home to go to Paris.
Max’s return home is welcomed by his buddy Mikey-Mike (Michael Sorvino), a former baseball player who had a cup of coffee in the major leagues. Now, Mikey-Mike is divorced, barely sees his daughter, and fights with his ex-wife over a condo that Max helped them buy that they actually could not afford. Mikey doesn’t hold it against his old friend Max however, as Max remains one of the few people who can stand Mikey’s way of talking like a '90s teenage when he’s nearing 40. Mikey sounds like he would get on your nerves but the film sticks with his strangeness and it becomes endearingly doofy.
Then there is the love story because, well, movies like this have to have a love interest, in this case, a former High School classmate turned toy store owner named Ellie (Abigail Hawk). She plays hard to get but with an obvious attraction to Max that plays out as he attempts to find a new job and deal with the issues he's created among members of his family. The love story is rather weak tea, perfunctorily added to the plot but Hawk is a pleasant actress and she and Max have enough spark that it doesn't hurt the movie to include this subplot.
As I said at the start, I like these characters. They are interesting, funny, and sympathetic people. The issues that I have with the film come from extremely abrupt edits, very short scenes that end abruptly flipping to a different part of the plot and then flipping back again just as abruptly. Scenes just sort of happen and while you want a moment to process, the next scene is already underway in a different part of the plot.
The editing is bizarre but not terrible. At times, the abrupt switches in scenes are welcome as the movie doesn’t spend time dwelling in a scene. Sometimes the abruptness works and other times it really doesn’t. That is what makes Almost Paris rather maddening, so much of the movie is good, there are some legit big laughs but the film doesn’t have an identifiable tone moving from comedy to drama clumsily from scene to abrupt scene.
On top of being a family "dramedy," the makers of Almost Paris want the film to have a political relevance by tacking on a late in-the-movie lesson about credit default swaps. Max being a former financial analyst takes a scene to explain the shady deals he used to make swapping bad debt around, the kind of bad debt that nearly tanked our economy. This takes up much of the third act with Max coming to terms with his behavior on Wall Street and the effect it had on his own main street.
There is nothing wrong with this as a subplot. It does provide Max with a beefed up arc that his character was lacking but, much like the editing, the economics lesson is rather abrupt. The idea of Max’s dirty dealing is introduced late, briefly takes over all of the plot and then becomes the focus of the film’s redemptive ending. Not a spoiler, but this isn’t a sad family drama; this is a dramatic family comedy that likely wasn’t going to end in a bloodbath.
The ending of Almost Paris is rather lovely. Director Scorsese puts a lovely bow on the end of the movie with an especially sweet and romantic ending for Max’s mom and dad. The ending and these very pleasant characters makes it impossible for me to dismiss Almost Paris but other aspects do keep me from giving it a full throated endorsement. Almost Paris in the end is a sweet, kinda funny, not terrible movie.
After having debuted in 2016, Almost Paris is finally opening in limited release on January 12, 2018.