Almost Paris


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Almost Paris
"The film's weaknesses are more frustrating because first time feature director Domenica Cameron-Scorsese shows considerable talent."

What did the housing market crash of 2008 mean for you? For 861,664 US families, it meant foreclosure on their homes. 1.56 million Americans spent at least one night in emergency accommodation because they had nowhere else to stay. It's often wise, in drama, to stay away from extremes of suffering and instead explore issues through subtler scenarios, but when Almost Paris expects hearts to bleed over the fact that a middle aged couple can't afford to travel to another continent for a holiday, it's taking this a little too far.

Not every film depends on viewers empathising with its characters. Perhaps this premise wouldn't matter if the writing were incisive or the actors could make their distress feel real, but Almost Paris is remarkably devoid of emotional resonance of any kind. Whilst this might be understandable in central character Max (Wally Marzano-Lesnevich), who was one of those shady speculators responsible for the crash and so might be assumed to be a bit sociopathic, the flatness of other characters is a real problem and means that a story that hinges on interpersonal relations struggles to get off the ground.

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Max has returned from his exploits in the big city to an anonymous small town where he moves back in with his parents (the aforementioned middle aged couple, whose other adult son is also living with them) and persistently sleazes at a former girlfriend who seems deeply uninterested but tolerates his bullshit in a way that's all too common in Hollywood films but disappointing in an indie work from a female director. He struggles to fit back into the world he once knew, clashes with his frustrated father and, in the film's most interesting scenes, struggles with the conflict between his emotional desire to please and the new sense of ethics that prohibits him from giving loans to people he knows will struggle to pay them back.

The film's weaknesses are more frustrating because first time feature director Domenica Cameron-Scorsese shows considerable talent, especially when it comes to framing. With a better script and better actors she could have made quite an impact; one wonders if her inexperience meant she simply lacked the confidence to assert herself in this regard. Despite the humble setting with its suburban homes and offices, she maintains a lot of visual interest and helps us to understand the relationship between people and places - essential, of course, to the dynamics of the underlying economic crisis.

There's certainly room to explore the impact on individuals of big events in a small town setting, but Almost Paris falls short of its aims because it simply doesn't have enough at stake. In light of the extreme stress associated with the crash in many real world situations, the lack of dramatic tension here feels all the more acute, and the insipid soundtrack doesn't help. One hopes that Cameron-Scorsese will get a better chance to make her mark next time around.

Reviewed on: 07 Jan 2018
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Almost Paris packshot
In the wake of the mortgage-lending crisis, a former banker returns to his hometown.

Director: Domenica Cameron-Scorsese

Writer: Wally Marzano-Lesnevich

Starring: Wally Marzano-Lesnevich, Susan Varon, Joanna Adler, Ryan McCarthy, Adam LeFevre, Lily Henderson

Year: 2016

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


Tribeca 2016

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