New Yorker Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) is divorced, jobless and impecunious. So when his late father leaves him a large apartment in Paris he travels to Paris intending to sell it so that he can pay off all his debts and live comfortably.
To his dismay he discovers that the apartment is inhabited by elderly Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith) and her daughter, Chloe (Kirsten Scott Thomas). The apartment is a viager, which means that not only will Mathias be unable to take possession until Mathilde dies, but he actually has to pay her 2400 euros per month.
Initially furious, Mathias presents as an arrogant, abrasive American. He mellows as he comes to understand why his father bequeathed him what is actually a debt. However, whether it is due to the writing, the direction or Kline’s characterisation, it is hard to warm to Mathias, even after this transition. None of the characters are particularly endearing, but Chloe and Mathilde seem to have more depth.
The main attraction of the film is Paris. Writer-director Israel Horowitz has taken the film beyond the interior of the apartment to which he confined his original play, and enabled cinematographer Michel Amathieu to reveal interesting aspects of Paris. Trailer