Synopsis: Adam Goldberg delivers “an uproarious study in transatlantic culture panic” (MTV) as Jack, an anxious, hypochondriac-prone New Yorker vacationing throughout Europe with his breezy, free-spirited Parisian girlfriend, Marion (Delpy). But when they make a two-day stop in Marion’s hometown, the couple’s romantic trip takes a turn as Jack is exposed to Marion’s sexually perverse and emotionally unstable family, her coarse temperament with cab drivers and her ex-lovers…her many ex-lovers. Culture-shocked and ego-bruised, Jack finds himself hoping that their relationship can survive as their love is revealed in surprising ways.
2 Days in Paris 8.0
eyelights: the quirky parents. the dialogues.
eyesores: the leads’ character flaws.
Jack: “This isn’t Paris. This is hell.”
I was told many years ago that I should watch ‘2 Days in Paris’; a friend said that I would like it.
I took that under advisement, but I was reticent for two reasons: 1) Julie Delpy, the once-cute but now terribly sickly/febrile star of the piece, leaves me quite cold, and 2) I had the impression that it would be rip-off of ‘Before Sunrise‘, another Delpy vehicle.
So I stalled indefinitely to see it. And when I was ready to see it, my partner wasn’t. Then my partner was, and I wasn’t. Until I was again.
Frankly, I should had heeded my friend’s advice and cast my doubts aside: ‘2 Days in Paris’ is a frequently droll, mostly engaging, dramedy about an imperfect couple passing through Paris at the tail-end of their trip to Europe.
It’s during their stay in Marion’s home town, however, that things really begin to unravel. Unable to cope with the awkwardness of his interactions with her family and friends (which include more past-lovers than he’d expected), Jack begins to come apart.
Clearly, ‘2 Days in Paris’ is nothing like ‘Before Sunset’.
For starters, it’s not as dialogue-based as the ‘Sunset’ was. ‘Sunset’ had only two actors for most of the picture and it was rooted in their discussions about life and relationships. ‘2 Days in Paris’ is also about relationships, but its approach is more traditional.
Secondly, it’s not about a newly-minted relationship. In this case, the couple are not only older, more jaded, but they’ve been together long enough that Marion now resides ten months out of the year in New York with Jack. So they’re already slightly set in their ways.
This means that we are privy to some of the less flattering aspects of their relationship – they are no longer at their best, as one usually would be during courtship. There are snide remarks being tossed, insecurities taking hold, and much being taken for granted.
All the awkwardness that is rarely on display in traditional romantic comedies comes to the fore, providing both discomfort and humour at once (ex: the interrupted lovemaking session). While these could be uncomfortable in other circumstances, Delpy (who directed and wrote the film), makes light of it all.
For instance, in real life Marion’s parents could be a pain in the butt, and it’s hardly surprising that Jack is frustrated and embarrassed by his interaction with them. However, as observers, we get to see the absurd side of it and are able to laugh at the situations as much as we empathize with Jack.
The father, for instance, is a slightly obnoxious man who instantly takes to quizzing Jack to find out just how well-read he is. He has a crude side to him which he explores in his art – paintings as obscene as they are interesting. The mother, on the other hand, is a sweet little thing with no sense of privacy – she wants to be caring, motherly, but comes off as intrusive.
Which may account for Marion’s own personality flaws, in that she is indiscrete and untrustworthy. Her indiscretions are no doubt products of having few boundaries at home and, thus, has very little understanding of other people’s – including Jack’s. This lack of boundaries may also explain why she consistently lies; she likely learned to do this in order to have a private life at home.
Still, even though one might understand the potential root causes, it remains a double-blow to Jack, who discovers that some of their intimate moments together have been shared with her whole family, and then finds out the hard way that he can’t take everything she says at face value – that she will also bend the truth to attenuate the damage being done by her secrecy.
Meanwhile, Jack has his own personality flaws: his sarcasm hides insecurities and a deep cynicism that the film only barely touches upon. He’s a relatively funny person, quipping as quickly as can be, but he is also moody and irritable. This means that any situation can turn on a dime with him. Sometimes it’s somewhat justified, at others not so much.
But his jealousy is the biggest issue. Personally, I couldn’t quite understand why he felt so insecure around Marion’s exes and why he began to distrust her. Some people erroneously believe that jealousy is a sign of love. I certainly don’t. I think that it reveals deep wounds that need healing. Sadly, Jack isn’t being helped by Marion’s secrecy and lies, as all they do is fuel his distrust.
It’s a complicated relationship, and it’s quite interesting to watch the two of them try to sustain it – if one is inclined to appreciate that sort of thing. One gets the sense that this a real couple with real issues, made more complicated by their inability to work on their own individual inadequacies.
All in all, Julie Delpy’s second foray into feature filmmaking is a humourous blend of familial and romantic relationships gone slightly awry. It brings to the fore real-world conflicts and neurosis and does so with just enough charm to make it enjoyable. I Look forward to seeing her follow-up, ‘2 Days in New York’.
Marion: “There’s a moment in life where you can’t recover any more from another break-up. And even if this person bugs you sixty percent of the time, well you still can’t live without him. And even if he wakes you up every day by sneezing right in your face, well you love his sneezes more than anyone else’s kisses.”
Date of viewing: November 30, 2012