2 Days in Paris (2007) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for sexuality, nudity, and strong language
Running Time: 96 min.

Cast: Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Albert Delpy, Marie Pillet, Alexia Landeau, Adan Jodorowsky, Alex Nahon, Daniel Bruhl
Director: Julie Delpy
Screenplay: Julie Delpy
Review published February 17, 2008

Actress Julie Delpy (Broken Flowers, The Three Musketeers) writes and directs her own starring vehicle with 2 Days in Paris, a look at the tricky relationship that emerges between a French woman and an American man, especially in the culture clashes between them regarding sex, nudity and acceptance of a more cavalier outlook toward intimate relationships.  Delpy stars as Marion, a photographer visiting her home country of France on a European trip after being in the United States for the past several years, visiting her old neighborhood and family with her current beau, an interior decorator named Jack (Goldberg, Deja Vu).  As the two tour the area, Marion runs into some old flings, causing Jack to become increasingly insecure about the woman he is with.  The more men she has been with, the less special he feels, especially as some of the more intimate moments she has had with him have been those she has shared with others.  As Jack isn't taking things well, Marion is stuck in a no-win situation between pushing Jack further away by opening up to him in a way he seems to find disfavor with, or lying to him to keep him from finding out the truth. 

Delpy is no stranger to American-French romance films, graduating from work in the two best examples of the genre in the Richard Linklater gems, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, the latter which she co-wrote.  That's not the only reason she revisits familiar territory, as she casts her real-life parents, Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, as her parents in the film, as well as her real-life ex-beau (good friends Delpy and Goldberg once were actually dating, years ago) and her real-life cat.  Her role here is semi-autobiographical in many ways -- Delpy does actually have problems with her vision, and has spent a great deal of her time as a resident of the United States. 

Unlike many American films of late, Delpy's vision of Paris is one of "familiarity breeds contempt", as dog shit lines the streets, cab drivers are obnoxiously opinionated, and the men far more sexually aggressive, especially on the subway, to consider charming.  It is precisely because Delpy is intimately knowledgeable about what she writes about that the film comes across in so personal a fashion, as these characters have a history, of which we only catch glimpses of during the two days we follow them.  We never learn about their pasts, and yet, we come to understand what makes them tick in the limited exposure we have, which does reap rewards later in the film as they search their souls in decisions that will affect the course of their near futures, and perhaps distant as well. 

It is also interesting to find a modern romantic comedy where the two lead characters are so flawed that we wonder what one sees in the other to stick around.  Delpy redeems the notion by capturing what makes relationships ultimately work -- you see the good in them no one else sees, even themselves, and they do the same in turn for you.  It is in the subtle details that she outlines the difficulties of love, especially for those who have a cultural chasm that seemingly can't be bridged without great effort on the part of both parties.  No one is perfect, and certainly not Marion and Jack, but what's important isn't for two people to find perfection -- just two people perfect for each other.

Unlike Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, we aren't left hanging with ambiguity as far as how people with such obstacles will find a way to be together.  Somehow, it feels right to sum things up here, as these two are already established as being together, so there is no real way to imaging a happy ending -- they will either find a way to continue to accept each others flaws or they will finally collapse under the increasing weight of them.  I won't spoil the film to elaborate just which way the relationship goes except to say that it is fitting to the characters and their histories together.  They know each other well enough to be able to joke with each other, and even insult one another throughout the film, and still their bond isn't broken.  As we do with out own loved ones, we spat and we disrespect one another, mostly because the knowledge that we love each other allows us to do so.  When you know the other would rather love you than leave you, you can afford to be yourself around them.

One thing that comes to mind after seeing 2 Days in Paris, is that, for decades, Hollywood has the notion that a happy ending in a romantic comedy occurs when two people finally get together for the first time at the end.  In real life, we know this is not the case.  Although there is a sense of euphoria that can occur when partners finally think they might live happily ever after, there is always the realization that relationships take a great deal or work, precisely because each partner is full of flaws that haven't yet been explored by the other.  What people do when discovering those flaws, as well as how they react, are the great determining factors in how strong the relationship is and whether or not it will ultimately be successful in the end.  This recalls a scene in the film where Marion is bring to carry a large suitcase up a flight of steps while Jack does little to assist until they reach a compromise.  We all have baggage we carry around with us, some more than others; we just need to find that other person willing to help share the load.

Qwipster's rating:

2008 Vince Leo