MOVIE REVIEW- Odd couple: Can 2 days in Paris save this affair?
Although the line from Casablanca most often cited with regard to 2 Days in Paris is "We'll always have Paris," there's another that's more appropriate: "The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." At least two conversations in the film revolve around the relative unimportance of petty personal problems in the face of war, hunger, disease, and other global crises.
But when you're in Paris and in love– or wondering if you are– it's hard to see beyond the personal. That's the situation Marion (Julie Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) find themselves in when they stop to see her parents (Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy, Delpy's actual parents) on the way back from a visit to Venice that was spoiled when Jack came down with Mussolini's Revenge.
Although they've been together for two years, they seem like an odd couple at first. Marion is a professional photographer who lives in New York ten months of the year. Jack, an interior designer, is the kind of New York Jew Woody Allen turned into an archetype, a neurotic hypochondriac who speaks nothing but English, even after two years with a French native.
She's fluent in French, English, and a couple of other languages, so she gets along fine in New York; but being in Paris accentuates their differences. Jack assumes, usually correctly, that everyone is talking about him in a language he doesn't understand. As Marion starts running into her exes, he grows increasingly jealous, even though she tries to minimize the importance of those relationships.
One problem is that she remains friendly with men after they've broken up, while Jack has no further use for women he's finished with. He has a double standard about sex, while the French seem to take it more casually and speak more frankly about it.
By the second day in Paris, it doesn't look as if they'll be returning to New York as a couple, but Paris still has time to work its magic on them. Jack, for instance, encounters a self-styled "fairy" (Daniel Brühl)– not that kind, although he holds Jack's hand a lot– who offers romantic advice before returning to his political activist agenda.
Though not a perfect film, 2 Days in Paris has a lot going for it. As writer, director, producer, editor, and composer, Delpy deserves the lion's share of the credit. When Barbra Streisand does all those things, it comes off as a vanity project, but Delpy is as humble as she is talented. Marion is self-deprecating, especially about her weight, which we probably wouldn't notice if she didn't keep calling attention to it; and Delpy prefers capturing herself looking less than her best (which still isn't bad).
Keeping the production on an indie scale helps maintain the humility of the actors at its center, and provides fewer distractions from their characters, although there's plenty of Parisian scenery to savor.
Goldberg has some good sarcastic one-liners that sound so natural you have to wonder whether Delpy actually wrote them for him or let him ad lib. His religion comes up in conversation a few times, but there are no signs of the anti-Semitism that's supposed to be rampant in France. One cab driver is anti-everything (another is only anti-gay), triggering Marion's rage in one of two scenes that make you question whether Jack's really the lucky one in the relationship.
Delpy's writing and direction are surprisingly accomplished for someone heretofore known primarily as an actress. "Being a photographer makes you an observer. It takes you out of the moment," Marion says, explaining that she left her camera behind on this trip because "I wanted to be in the moment."
While constantly in the moment as an actress, Delpy scores big time as an observer of the moment in the lives of two thirtysomethings when they realize the necessity of compromise if they're going to make a relationship last.