What is it with potentially doomed lovers and their film-inspired but ultimately fictitious hopes for Paris, anyway? For some reason, both onscreen and off, scores of starry-eyed buffoons always seem to seek out the City of Lights to solve their problems, buying into the notion that enough charming cafés, accordion-playing street musicians and strategic shots of the Eiffel Tower will serve as the proper recharging of romance.
Directed by: Julie Delpy
Starring: Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg
Playing at: Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis
Tickets: www.landmarktheatres.com, (612) 825-6006
Just as Woody Allen once made the misconstrued Metropolis fantasy of New York feel more like a real, lived-in location and less like a postcard for his fabulously flawed characters (and equally human audience), so does writer-director-star Julie Delpy zero in overseas with her debut feature “2 Days in Paris.” In fact, her film makes like a French-filtered “Annie Hall,” gleefully dusting off the Allen-Diane Keaton chemistry of the ’70s as consciously as Allen referenced the sweeping shots of ’60s European drama.
Just as in that classic 1977 account of the souring, but still-kicking romantic union between perpetually nervous comedian Alvy Singer and his ditzy, beloved Annie, “2 Days in Paris” refuses to further clutter up a relationship’s present conflicts with purposefully identified landmarks and tired urban truisms – Delpy’s real love letter to Paris seems dedicated to the lovelorn entanglements found buried within it.
Her Marion is a flaky Parisian photographer with a perforated right retina that gives her a sort of Swiss cheese view of the world. She takes pictures so she has the ability to move on from what she would otherwise incessantly focus on. Externally, she personifies that archetypal fair French flower of a maiden with a streak of sneaky wit that drives men wild. This truth is much to the dismay of boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg), who, with his Allen-esque nebbish neuroticism and bad-sport sarcasm, is half the reason why they have lost the ability to simply be kind to one another after a two-year relationship.
After a disastrous two weeks in Venice (capped off by a case of explosive diarrhea), Jack and Marion decide to do a final 48-hour detour through Gay Paris to find out if a) they’ll ever have sex again, and b) their love is worth salvaging.
From there, of course, the trip is a steady coast through international embarrassment – including painful language barriers, too-small condoms, frequent and untimely intrusions from mom (Marie Pillet, Delpy’s mother) and a widely seen snapshot of Jack buck-naked with helium balloons tied to his nether regions. “He’s not like the morons you usually bring home,” cracks dad (Albert Delpy, Delpy’s father), as bits of cooked rabbit fall from his mouth.
Worse yet are Marion’s everywhere-at-once black book of exes, the number of which far exceeded Jack’s worry – there’s the “avant” artist whose conversational icebreaker on, ahem, Landing Strips, mirrors his wannabe-provocative (but impossibly absurd) installations; not to mention the oily poet who casually mentions over hors d’oeuvres that he gave Marion her first orgasm. Soon, Jack unravels over two classic male hang-ups in collision – the appeal of a woman with experience vs. the insane jealousy felt when you learn of it in great detail.
Though much of the film nestles in the always-awkward notion of the American in Paris, the best thing about “2 Days” is that it’s never self-conscious. Self-absorbed? Certainly. But it’s brilliantly written, superbly acted and hysterically funny enough to make it one of the better films yet this year (and not simply a vanity project of Delpy’s). Instead of pushing too hard with constant development, it slowly unfolds as a wry adult talkathon, a situational salad that might or might not truly tie itself up in the end.
Delpy might have intended to reach those couples who commit to learning everything about each other before settling down, but at its brightest and most chipper, “2 Days in Paris” is about the intoxicating lightness of being we can share with someone (and how we tend to lose touch when we learn we can’t).
Delpy allows Goldberg (her ex-boyfriend, oddly enough) ample freedom with Jack, and he perfectly captures how our partners can go from endearing to unendurable all the way back to endearing. It might be Marion who weaves the story with her honest voiceovers, but it’s Jack who rightfully gives the Paris trip its hilarious one-liners.
Delpy shows a bit of New Filmmaker Syndrome with her tendency to over use narration, especially in the final scene when Jack and Marion are on the verge of breaking up and it’d be appreciated to hear what they’reÖ talking about. But her biggest strengths smother any setbacks, most of which is an unusually playful style and the willingness to let her characters work at length. Her flexibility thankfully doesn’t force the film to a clichéd conclusion, as the lovers are never expected to be redeemed by Paris’ romanticism or condemned to a no-hope ending.
Ultimately, there’s great honesty in her portrayal of rocky romance. Delpy proves, through Jack, Marion and perhaps all of us, that they and we will always have Paris to remind us the trials of love are never lost in translation.