Mismatched lovers deliver a comic and brainy commentary on love and hypocrisy.
"2 Days in Paris" isn't quite a love story, but it's a labor of love. Julie Delpy stars in, scripted, directed, edited and wrote the musical score for this antiromantic comedy -- all wonderfully, as it turns out. Her character, Marion, is a flaky photographer with an eye condition that gives her a Swiss cheese view of the world, but Delpy is as observant a commentator on lovers and their foibles as you could hope to find.
After several years of living in New York with her fussbudget boyfriend, Jack (Adam Goldberg), Marion insists that they visit her parents at the end of their European vacation.
Jack is phobic about microbes and terrorists, and devoutly antisocial. He deliberately misdirects a gaggle of nice American tourist ladies looking for the Louvre just because he doesn't like their Bush/Cheney T-shirts. Marion isn't much better, launching strident arguments with every Parisian cabbie who doesn't measure up to her standards of political correctness.
Yet Goldberg and Delpy also give their characters a wistful charm, and Delpy's zippy, dialog-heavy screenplay sparkles with wit. When Marion informs Jack that she speaks four languages to his one, he counters that for all he knows, she could be stupid in French. They spar in such a brainy, spiteful way that the film turns into continual comic delight. Goldberg's old-fashioned New York comic delivery clashes entertainingly with Delpy's lazy Parisian drawl. The actors' ability to portray their characters as simultaneously incorrigible and funny makes the film what it is.
The pair visit Marion's mom, whose tales of '60s sexual liberation stun Jack into rare silence, and tour the neighborhood with her eccentric dad, who painstakingly vandalizes every car he deems improperly parked. They take in tourist sites, Jack insisting on a visit to Jim Morrison's grave because "I'm a huge Val Kilmer fan."
They run into Marion's old lovers at every turn, stoking Jack's simmering jealousy and paranoia; he's wonderfully weirded out to learn he's not the first guy for whom Marion has posed for a nude portrait with balloons. There is cross-cultural animosity (each side gets a thorough pounding) and random weirdness, as in a gallery scene where Jack's attempts at small talk somehow trap him in a discussion of "fascist pubic hair." He sees Paris not as a city of romance and intellectuals but a village full of snobby jerks, most of whom have slept with his girlfriend, while Marion slowly discovers that his toxic insecurity and temper are serious character flaws rather than amusing foibles.
The conclusion of this comic examination of love and hypocrisy wisely avoids declaring the couple's relationship dead or rehabilitated after their 48 hour tête-à-tête, but one thing's for sure. They'll always have Paris.
Colin Covert 612-673-7186