Stream It Or Skip It?

Savoring Paris is part of the Hallmark Channel’s “Passport To Love” series of films shot at least partially on location around the world. While most Hallmark romances convey the dreamy settings of small towns that don’t seem to exist anywhere in the real world, Savoring Paris uses the City of Light as the backdrop for the film, which adds a healthy dash of wanderlust to its sweet story of a woman starting over in a new country and finding happiness by way of cheese and romance.

Opening Shot: Ella (Bethany Joy Lenz) tries to stop herself from crying during a business meeting in a conference room. When she composes herself, we see a flurry of text messages on her phone telling her she was robbed of her big promotion at work.

The Gist: Ella works as a recipe developer for a French bistro food chain, a job born out of a true passion for food. Unfortunately, the food the restaurant makes is bad. So bad she’s embarrassed to put her name on it. Early on in the film, she describes to a colleague a life-changing piece of comté cheese she ate when she was on a trip to Paris when she was fresh out of college, and how happy it made her. But here she is, pressured by her mom to buy a condo and freeze her eggs and stuck in a job she hates, and it’s all too much. So she drops everything and goes to Paris in search of that comté-inspired happiness she felt in her youth.

When she arrives, the first thing she does is buy some comté from a prickly cheesemonger (Stanley Weber) who’s hot and charming but refuses to tell Ella his name. The second thing she does is visit the flat she’s subletting from a French woman named Clotilde (Manon Azem) who is a zesty, independently wealthy spitfire who eventually encourages Ella to quit her job and stay in Paris long-term, if she’s so serious about finding her true happiness. (“How are you affording this mid-life crisis?” Ella’s overly practical, conservative mom asks when she announces she’s staying in France indefinitely. I often find it hard to suspend my own disbelief when characters in films make these brash decisions, so I appreciate that someone is addressing the budgetary concerns out loud.)

As Ella settles in, she revamps her wardrobe into what can best be described as Audrey Hepburn-Catherine Deneuve cosplay, all black capris and head scarves, and finds herself vying for the attention of two men, Gaston (Ben Wiggins), who is Clotilde’s cousin and a known womanizer, and Serge, the hot, grumpy cheese man who offers her a job in his shop. Though she’s dating Gaston, it’s Serge who really sees her for who she is and wants to be the one to offer her more long-term happiness. As she bonds with Serge, they collaborate on a new wine bar for the space next to his cheese shop, and it makes both of them realize that what would make them both happiest is the chance to enjoy the simple things, like cheese, together.

Photo: Hallmark

What Shows Will It Remind You Of?: Get ready to Eat, Pray, Love while Under The Tuscan Sun by way of Emily In Paris, mes amis.

Our Take: Historically (and by that I mean in film history), when a man has a midlife crisis, he either cheats on his partner or buys a sports car, and when a woman has one, she travels the world. Savoring Paris is the latest entry in the woman in pursuit of the meaning of life in a foreign land genre, and it honestly makes it look like dropping everything and moving to Paris is an accessible reality. Like, I am maybe looking into flights right now. But of course, in reality it’s just a story of a woman who finally puts her own happiness first and happens to find it amid food, wine, and sexy guys.

Unlike many Hallmark movies which feel a bit contrived and contained within a tiny universe, Savoring Paris feels different, in part because it’s set in a real city, but also because it features an impressively well-rounded supporting cast. Ella’s mother, her roommate Clotilde, and the men she dates are all given dimension and personalities that you can immediately identify with, plus there’s a cameo from real-life tour guide Anya Firestone that adds some unexpected fun to the film. (Unfortunately, the character of Ella feels the most two-dimensional of anyone.)

While I am beside myself with jealousy that I did not come up with the title Fromage À Trois, the book written by Victoria Brownlee upon which Savoring Paris is based, overall, the film is a satisfying fantasy about the good things that life can offer if you’re willing to take chances and follow your heart. Realistic? Hardly. But as I said, a satisfying fantasy all the same.

Photo: Hallmark

Parting Shot: Ella and Serge stand in front of the cheese and wine bar they ended up opening together and the camera pans up to the name: La Cheddar-ie, a private joke between them.

Performance Worth Watching: As Ella’s French roommate/bon vivant Clotilde, Manon Azem is the insanely stylish, beautiful, fun friend everyone wants. She looks like a star in her own right, and she owns every frame she’s in.

Memorable Dialogue: “I can’t just quit my job and move to Paris,” Ella says early on. OR CAN SHE??

Our Call: STREAM IT! Savoring Paris is a love letter to Paris itself, a city that symbolizes (to many Americans, at least), a more romantic and impetuous way of life. It’s a sweet romance, but more than that, it’s an inspiring reminder to go ahead and eat that wheel of cheese/take that trip to France/kiss that hot stranger if that’s what makes you happy.

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