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2 Days In Paris
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not The Kind Of Movie That You May Think It Is."
4 stars

I suspect that a good number of people paying to see “2 Days In Paris” are doing so in the hopes of seeing another film along the line of Richard Linklater’s beloved “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004)–like those earlier films, it takes place within a compressed period of time (guess how long), it is a highly verbal film that follows a couple as they talk their way through the streets of a fabled European city (guess which one) and it stars the luminous Julie Delpy as one half of the couple. Heck, the opening shot in which we see two leads riding on a train evokes memories of the opening shots of “Before Sunrise.” However, those hoping for more of the same are likely to be taken aback because this film, which Delpy also wrote, directed, produced, edited and scored, is a comedy that is far more acidic in tone that the relatively sweet-natured Linklater films. Frankly, if I were to compare this film to anything, it would be to Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours”–like that 1985 gem, this is a blissfully black comedy in which an ordinary guy just trying to have a good time is faced with a series of obstacles that grow in stature to such a degree that it almost feels as if an entire city has silently and suddenly conspired to destroy him for reasons that he cannot begin to understand.

The guy in question is Jack (Adam Goldberg), a New York-based interior decorator who is on the last leg of a European vacation with his French-born photographer girlfriend, Marion (Delpy). The vacation has not gone as well as hoped–both came down with stomach ailments in Venice and Marion has been irritated with Jack’s compulsion to photograph everything that they encounter instead of simply experiencing it (not to mention the fact that he seems to be deliberately horning in on her turf)–but they are hoping that this last leg, a two-day stopover in Paris to visit Marion’s father and mother (Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, Delpy’s real-life parents) and to retrieve their cat, will end things on a better note. Unfortunately, that turns out to be anything but the case. For starters, they are staying in a fairly tiny house with the parents and Jack is disturbed to discover that they barely speak any English and that everything that they say and do, including serving rabbit for lunch (“Real men eat the head”) seems to be a hostile gesture aimed directly at him. To make matters worse, every time that he and Marion venture out of the house–to the market, a party or even a barely-populated bistro–they seem to run into a former boyfriend of hers that is cheerfully willing to drop the kind of personal information that even the most confident of boyfriends (which Jack is most certainly not) might not want to hear from a virtual stranger.

To be fair to Marion, Jack is exactly being easy to live with either. His hypochondria has become so pronounced that he is convinced that a spot on the wall of the bathroom is really a deadly fungus that will kill them both in an instant. His neurotic reaction to virtually everything that they encounter along the way (even an old condom that she finds in her room) is beginning to drive her up the wall. And while she is proud and amused early on by the way that he cheerfully messes up the plans of a group of American travelers in town for a “Da Vinci Code”–inspired tour, she is dismayed when she discovers that of all the sights to see in Paris, the only ones that he has any interest in are the gravesites of famous people like Jim Morrison, a destination just about as gauche and hackneyed as any Da Vinci tour. Throw in the added pressures of a couple of fights, jealousy, misunderstandings, another food-related illness, a parade of increasingly psychotic cab drivers and a wandering eco-terrorist and it looks like the title of the film isn’t describing the length of a layover as much as it is the time it takes to destroy a seemingly solid relationship.

Of course, watching two people slowly becoming unglued amidst the City of Lights may not strike many of you as a particularly entertaining way of spending $9 and 90 minutes so it is a good thing that Delpy, in her feature directorial debut, does such a good job of keeping things fast and morbidly funny. Unlike Linklater, who is probably the closest thing to a genuine humanist working in the American cinema today–he chooses to see all of his characters, likable or otherwise, as real and complex people instead of Good Guys and Bad Guys, Delpy has a sense of humor that is much darker than anything that he has done and you can tell that she enjoys putting her central characters through their personal wringers just to see them squirm. At the same time, she doesn’t let them off the hook either because it quickly becomes clear that many of the problems faced by Jack and Marion are the result of their own mutual lack of communication–they have spent so much time wryly commenting on the state of relationships as they observe them in others that they are unwilling or unable to recognize those same flaws in themselves. (This is helped enormously by the fine performances from Delpy and Goldberg, both of whom are cheerfully willing to play characters that are oftentimes quite unlikable without showing even the slightest hint of hesitation–together, they conjure up an entirely believable on-screen relationship.)

For Julie Delpy, “2 Days in Paris” is a triumph of sorts. In France, she is a popular and highly acclaimed actress but in America, outside of the Linklater films, she has never really broken through the ranks and her English-language efforts have veered between hip indie fare (such as her brief turn in “Broken Flowers”) and junky head-scratchers like “An American Werewolf in Paris” and “The Three Musketeers.”: like Isabelle Adjani and Emmanuelle Beart, two other brilliant and beautiful French actresses whose European stardom hasn’t translated in the states, the combination of exquisite beauty and a relative unwillingness to appear in high-profile junk seems to have worked against her. Instead of letting her career be dictated by the whims of the material that she receives, she has decided to seize control of the situation and generate her own material in the same manner as fellow actresses Joey Lauren Adams and Sarah Polley. Although she makes a few common rookie mistakes–such as an overreliance on narration to underline things that would have probably came across better if they had been left unsaid–this is a strong and assured debut behind the camera and I am curious and eager to see what she does next.

As I said before, those of you expecting a winsome romantic along the lines of “Before Sunrise/Sunset” are advised to give this one a pass–the only thing that it really has in common with those film’s other than the initial idea and the presence of Delpy is that I wouldn’t mind seeing another film that picks up the lives of these characters in another nine years or so. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a tartly funny comedy that has some interesting thoughts on the nature of human relationships once they get past the stage where everything is new and lovey-dovey and isn’t afraid to show its central characters in a less-than-sterling light, you should definitely seek it out.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16457&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/23/07 23:59:03
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User Comments

5/05/10 Charles Tatum With characters this unpleasant, why should we care? 3 stars
3/04/09 Anonymous. a fun, enjoyable movie :] 4 stars
9/09/08 jcjs Before Sunset/Sunrise even worse..hohummer..nothing new 3 stars
3/10/08 Monday Morning Shoots for Woody-Allen-esque dialog, fails MISERABLY. Awful film w/ hatable characters. 2 stars
9/11/07 Anky This movie is shit i havent even seen it phil u r a loser 1 stars
9/11/07 Phil Van Kersen Very funny. Easy 4 stars. 4 stars
9/08/07 Private Nothing that hasn't been done better but good writing make this worthwhile for those intere 4 stars
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  10-Aug-2007 (R)
  DVD: 05-Feb-2008



Directed by
  Julie Delpy

Written by
  Julie Delpy

  Julie Delpy
  Adam Goldberg
  Daniel Brühl
  Marie Pillet
  Albert Delpy
  Aleksia Landeau

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