French Postcards (USA, 1979)

The lives of three American students studying abroad is a hilarious and at times emotional film that highlights a young cast of talents.

A group of Americans are given the opportunity to study for a year in Paris. For Alex, its about experiencing the pleasures of the city. Laura is a woman of high expectations who want to use the chance to see all the sights. As for Joel, he just wants to play things safe and make the most of the trip by doing everything right. However, for Joel, when he meets bookstore worker Toni, he eventually strikes a relationship with her after he is the victim of a date prank. As for Alex, he is heavily crushing on Madame Tessier, the headmistress of the school.

Soon enough, the lives of these three begin to change. Alex, learning that things aren’t going as planned, decides to temporarily leave the school. Joel’s relationship with Toni nearly comes to an end when he learns a bit of a secret about her. As for Laura, a chance to go to a festival ends disastrously. When Alex makes his return to the school, he learns about Laura being in the hospital and after a small chat with her, begins to fall for her. What will happen when the school year comes to an end?

From the makers of 1986’s box office bomb that is Howard the Duck, the husband-wife team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz made this very fun, realistic, and at times emotional look at the lives of three American students who spend a year in France. The stories are all connected, but even more outstanding, this trio have all different personalities that soon changes through their experiences, some later than others.

At first, we have Miles Chapin’s Joel, the shy and quiet student who wants to just get by with no issues and immerse himself heavily in the culture. Eventually, he slowly overcomes his fears and personality when it comes to his relationship with bookstore worker Toni, played by the late Valérie Quennessen. David Marshall Grant’s Alex is spirited and carefree, even crushing on the schoolmaster Madame Tessier, played by the late Marie-France Pisier. A scene where he spies on her at a clothing store shows how hard he is crushing on her until he decides to do something drastic when things fall apart.

Blanche Baker’s Laura is seen by the others as condescending and arrogant. She acts as if she is better than everyone else. Perhaps it’s more because she is hurting inside that her boyfriend couldn’t go on the trip and she doesn’t know how to take it. Yet, we hear her narrative voice reading postcards she writes to him. French legend Jean Rochefort is tough as schoolmaster Monsieur Tessier while Debra Winger makes the most of her role as Melanie, Laura’s eccentric roommate. Finally, Mandy Pantikin pulls off a hysterical performance in a limited role as Sayyid, who introduces Laura to “haviar” while taking her to a Renaissance festival.

French Postcards is a funny and at times emotional look at the lives of three students whose lives are changed throughout the course of a year in another country. The young cast combined with French acting legends is an underrated gem that should be seen, especially if you plan to spend a semester aboard.

WFG RATING: A

Paramount Pictures presents a Geria production. Director: Willard Huyck. Producer: Gloria Katz. Writers: Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. Cinematography: Bruno Nuytten. Editing: Carol Littleton.

Cast: Miles Chapin, Blanche Baker, David Marshall Grant, Valérie Quennessen, Mandy Patinkin, Debra Winger, Marie-France Pisier, Jean Rochefort, Lynn Carlin, George Coe, Anemoné, Véronique Jannot, Christophe Bouseiller.

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