Nettelbeck adapted "Mr. Morgan's Last Love" from French novelist Francoise Dorner's "La douceur assassine," changing the central character from a Frenchman to an expat American, a former philosophy professor who moved to the City of Lights with his late wife (Jane Alexander) to live out their golden years together. Three years on from her death, Matthew Morgan (Caine) still catches glimpses of the missus in all the old familiar places, though he himself is the one who's taken to walking around like a ghost of his former self. Early in the film, he tries swallowing a whole bottle of sleeping pills to end it all, only to be saved by a knock at the door.
On some basic level, the movie never decides what the stakes are for Matthew and Pauline -- if theirs is just a surrogate father-daughter relationship, or if there's an undercurrent of real desire (as there was for Peter O'Toole's character in the superior "Venus"). Then, after a second, more serious suicide attempt, Matthew's two adult children (Justin Kirk and Gillian Anderson) arrive from America, along with their own predictable emotional baggage in tow (would you believe Mr. Morgan wasn't the greatest dad in the world?) and squabbling about what to do with their share of Mom's vacation home in Saint-Malo. Audiences with a limited tolerance for movies about rich people's problems are strongly advised to steer clear.
Saddled with a pretty thankless role, Anderson at least plays it to the hilt, giving the movie a much-needed shot of energy as a brassy shopaholic who seems giddy to be free of her own husband and kids for a few days, even if it is under less-than-desirable circumstances. As for Caine, he could play this role in his sleep, and frequently seems to be doing just that. Poesy is a sunny presence, but has been given nothing to work with.
The movie has a stilted, airless feel, as if Mr. Morgan had already succeeded at offing himself and we were now drifting alongside him through some odd limbo. The actors deliver their lines in a slow hush amid a conspicuous lack of ambient sound, even in crowded public spaces. But Paris looks indisputably lovely through the lens of cameraman Michael Bertl.
© 2013 Variety Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC