Sunday, August 26, 2007
Delpy plays Marion, a French photographer with vision problems. In a whirlwind open, Marion narrates her life to us, complete with a rapid slide show of images chronicling the most recent events with her boyfriend of two years Jack (Adam Goldberg). Then she lays out her itinerary, which includes two days in Paris. She has dreams in her head about what two days with her boyfriend in the most romantic of cities might be like but reality is about to hand her a few surprises. Almost immediately, everything seems to go wrong from a local strike tying up the streets of Paris to ex-boyfriends resurfacing all over town to stir the worst kind of jealousy in Jack. Along the way, Marion contemplates what being in a relationship is all about and why we end up picking the people we do to fall in love with.
Adam Goldberg and Julie Delpy as the lovers in 2 Days in Paris (Samuel Goldwyn)
2 Days in Paris is a kindred spirit to the two films Delpy made in collaboration with filmmaker Richard Linklater and actor Ethan Hawe, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. All three films revolve around a French woman and an American man in a European city for a short, fixed amount of time. But tonally the films are very different. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are bittersweet romances with almost idealized characters at the center. In those films, Delpy was like an American's wet dream of what a French girl should be like--beautiful, intelligent, sexy, exotic and complex. And Hawke was her perfect counterpart--sensitive, well-read, handsome and romantic.
In 2 Days in Paris, Delpy presents us with a pair of characters that are far less appealing and idealized. Jack has a rather grating personality. He's snide rather than smart or intellectual; he seems to have more than his share Woody Allenesque neuroses and physical ailments; and he just doesn't seem capable of having a good time. Marion, maybe because she's narrating the story, comes across as more immediately likable. She has quirks but she seems intelligent, artistic, and reflective. But as time passes, her neuroses surface as well. She reveals a somewhat cavalier attitude toward the truth and the number of ex-lovers she's accumulated. If Before Sunrise is a warm romance, then 2 Days in Paris is something of a chilly anti-romance in which Marion's conclusion is to lower, or at the very least, redefine her expectations about happiness and relationships.
Delpy's real life parents Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy in 2 Days in Paris (Goldwyn)
Delpy is a charming actress and proves to be a frequently clever screenwriter. Her dialogue has bite and insight, and her film works better in bits and pieces than in overall structure. There is considerable amusement in some of the predicaments her characters get themselves into but overall she has a hard time making us care passionately about them because they don't seem to care all that much for each other. Jack proves to be especially difficult to warm up to and Goldberg brings little to the role to help out. He's rude and neurotic, and we only briefly glimpse a more pleasant side to him. Delpy fares better even though she her character turns out to be considerably flawed. But Delpy as an actress has found a way to still provide Marion with a heart and soul so that we are willing to cut her some slack when she disappoints us.
As a director and writer, Delpy keeps the story moving at a pace befitting a two-day stopover in a cosmopolitan city. Her characters sometimes seem at the mercy of the script rather than driving it but Delpy is good at getting the moment right even if she can't pull the whole film together. There's a funny running gag involving Marion and the various cab drivers she encounters. Each incident seems designed to reveal a different side of Paris. She also captures the boisterous, argumentative side of the French, including a pair of cameos by her real life parents--Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet--as Marion's combustible on screen parents. Pere Delpy has an amusing scene in which he scratches every badly parked car with his keys. His attitude about dispensing his particular brand of justice is something to be savored.
2 Days in Paris (rated R for language and sexual content, and in English and French with English subtitles) is a mixed lot. It reveals potential on Delpy's part yet it doesn't successfully bridge the romantic comedy elements with its serious reflection on contemporary relationships. Or maybe it's just that we can't agree with Marion's conclusions about Jack. He brings both her and the film down.
Companion viewing: Before Sunrise, Beatrice, Annie Hall