by Jay Seaver
About eight years ago, Adam Goldberg and Julie Delpy did a pilot for an American television series, "True Love", which would have been a romantic comedy about an American guy and a French girl falling in love in New York. ABC chose not to pick it up and it vanished into the limbo to which such things are consigned. It would be interesting to see it pop up as a DVD extra for "2 Days in Paris", because I strongly suspect that the contrast would be, to say the least, striking.Here, they play Jack and Marion, who have been together in New York for two years and are now reaching the end of a European vacation, stopping off to see Marion's family and friends in Paris before returning home. This is, of course, even more of a minefield than you might expect - two years is just long enough for irritations to build but that which sparked initial attraction to be taken for granted, and Jack's got his share of irritating qualities. On the flip side, it's also long enough that anything new you learn about your partner will likely be (or at least be seen as) something they tried to keep hidden - like Marion's eccentric parents and ex-boyfriends.
"Having a nasty sense of humor just makes Julie Delpy sexier."
Ah, but this is Paris; true love must prevail, no? Well, maybe. Julie Delpy wrote, directed, edited, produced, composed the music and probably drew the stick figures that decorate the closing credits; for her and Marion, Paris is home, as opposed to some idealized city, and we all know home is not perfect. Delpy seems to take an almost perverse glee in exploding the myth of Paris: The cemetery at Pére-Lachaise is overrun with obnoxious tourists, there's fungus in the couple's bathroom, the French eat animals that Americans keep as pets, and each taxicab driver they meet is more obnoxious and racist than the last. It's still a beautiful city, Delpy just isn't going to ascribe magical romance powers to it - at least, not when they can do any good.
Indeed, it's more than a bit surprising what a downright mean sense of humor Delpy displays as this film's writer. Everybody and everything is a fair target, though Jack seems to be her favorite; she misses very few opportunities to give us a laugh at his neuroses, although she'll often paint him in a sympathetic light a few minutes later as he gets caught in some bizarre situation. Right-wing Americans are occasionally sneered at - you can't do a film about Americans and Europeans interacting and not touch on the subject of politics - but the film doesn't display much love for the self-righteousness of those doing the sneering, either.
It's not, however, merely equal-opportunity snarkiness; the film does have a heart to go with its black humor. We particularly see and hear that in Marion's narration. Often accompanied by flashbacks, it gives us a look at what's going on in their heads minus the sarcasm that frequently comes out of their mouths. Marion, in particular, is nervous and already half-resigned to a break-up. It's not that she wants it; she just doesn't know what else can come next when things start to get difficult.
Delpy does well in front of the camera. She spends the first half of the movie as the calm, mostly reasonable person acting as a buffer between Jack and what's around him before getting the chance to show she can be kind of a handful herself, we see just enough of her prickly, mischievous side that it's far from a total surprise when she's suddenly more than the sensible one later on. Goldberg, on the other hand, starts out dangerously close to Woody Allen-neurotic/hypochondriac territory; and I suppose he never really leaves it; rather, he's made a little more relatable by the peculiar situations he finds himself in. Everyone seems to be vaguely hostile to him for being American or Marion's boyfriend, and his bemused reactions make amusing situations that much funnier. Julie Delpy's real-life parents, Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy, look like they're having a pretty good time as Marion's mother and father.The film is a great deal of fun as a whole, although it helps if you're willing to accept a little cruelty in your comedy. This isn't a soppy "Paris is for lovers" film, although Delpy doesn't completely turn on the city. She just realizes that setting up a funny situation sometimes means being a little nasty.
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originally posted: 09/07/07 23:09:03