Faithful readers of Chizfilm will recall that last month I saw the romantic supposed-comedy “Broken English” and found it terribly wanting, especially compared to the similar themed “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” which co-starred Julie Delpy. Both involved international romances between an American and a French person; both stories, at least partly, were set in Paris. And now, along comes “2 Days in Paris,” another romantic comedy about an American and a Frenchwoman in Paris. And the Frenchwoman is—yes, believe it or not—Julie Delpy. And not only does Delpy co-star, but she also wrote and directed it, too.
I know what you’re thinking. You can almost here me say it, can’t you? “Why keep repeating the same story? We’ve already seen this movie three times before.” But you know what. I’m not going to say that because “2 Days in Paris” is a refreshingly different and original film, and far more enjoyable than “Broken English,” despite the similarities. All that was wrong with “Broken English” is missing from “2 Days in Paris,” and all that was right with it is even better.
Unlike the other three French-and-American-in-Paris movies, “2 Days in Paris” looks at a couple that is not just starting out in a relationship when love is new and unsullied and exciting, but rather has been going on for two years. Long enough to be passed the honeymoon stage, but not long enough to have firmed up a lifetime commitment. It’s a rather important stage in a relationship and not enough good films focus on this precarious phase. This is the time when couples start to learn the really important things about each other and face that fork in the road: is this relationship worth pursuing permanently, or would they be better off breaking apart?
Delpy plays Marion, a 35-year-old photographer who was born and raised in Paris, but has lived in New York for several years. Her American boyfriend is Jack (Adam Goldberg), an interior designer with Woody Allen-like neuroses and fears of everything from terrorist attacks to disease-bearing mold. The two are returning from a vacation in Venice, which didn’t go so wonderfully, partly because Jack was sick most of the time, and are stopping off in Paris for two days before flying back to New York. This gives Jack a chance to meet Marion’s parents (Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy, who happen to be Julie Delpy’s real life parents—yes, another thing this movie has in common with “Broken English” is the director casting her own Mom). They can also take a little time to see a few sights and, inadvertently, run into several of Marion’s exes.
During the two days, a series of minor misadventures strains Jack and Marion’s relationship. They have dinner with Marion’s parents where Jack’s knowledge of French culture is tested by Marion’s father; they attend a party given by one of Marion’s friends where an ex hits on her; a water-pipe bursts and Marion flirts with the firemen who come to help; they shop at an outdoor food market which sells things most Americans would rather not see; they have a series of annoying cabdrivers; at a café they run into another of Marion’s exes whose presence so enrages Marion that her provoked outbursts get her and Jack thrown out of the restaurant. Each of these incidents highlights some rather humorous cultural differences and/or enlightens Jack on some previously unknown aspect of Marion which seriously troubles him.
Delpy’s script is intelligent, hilarious, and reveals a lot of truth about relationships. And the acting is wonderful—from the whole Delpy family—but Adam Goldberg is the one who really shines. He’s perfectly cast as Jack; he’s able to make the audience laugh at him and with him and really sympathize with him. The chemistry between him and Julie Delpy is perfect—their repartee makes you really believe that they have been in a relationship for a few years. They know a lot about each other, but there are still secrets yet to be revealed.
Also German actor Daniel Brühl (“Good Bye Lenin” and “The Edukators”) has a wonderfully comic cameo as a “fairy” with a beef against fast food establishments.
It’s fair to say that “2 Days in Paris” is one of the best romances I’ve seen in a long time—quite probably since “Before Sunset.” Could the fact that both co-starred Julie Delpy be a coincidence? Possibly. Or it could just be her incredible talent. After all, she proved that she could take an old formula, which comes off as clichéd and jaded in a lesser film like “Broken English,” and, with some creativity and talent, breathe a wonderful new life into it.
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