Two Days in Paris

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            It takes a brave soul to undertake commitment after seeing “Two Days in Paris.” The movie has such a real time, real life feel to it that it’s nearly impossible not to take it personally. On one level, it is a fine achievement for Julie Delpy who wrote, directed, edited and stars in the film; on another, it is a bit of an ordeal having to spend two hours within the confines of a prickly relationship. This is not the story of a young couple falling in love. It is the story of Jack (Adam Goldberg) and Marion (Julie Delpy), two years into a relationship in their mid-thirties and bickering their way through Venice and Paris on their way home to New York. They are beyond innocence, beyond denial and probably beyond repair.

            Jack and Marion stop for two days in an apartment above the one lived in by her parents (Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy) where we learn in short order that they didn’t have much fun touring Italy. Jack is a grouch; he complains about his sinus infection and allergies, about mold, about migraines, dial up modems, diarrhea, and the French culture – among other things. Grumpy Jack is tough to take, and we wonder why Marion doesn’t bolt. Offended, she slips easily into lecturing while Jack comments that being with her is like dating public television.

            Of course, Jack has a point: his girlfriend is a shameless flirt, dismissing the importance of her wide ranging sexual past as “minor compared to George Bush and the war in Iraq.” Marion is European Casual vs. Jack’s American Puritan. In their two days in Paris, Jack meets a host of her former lovers and sinks deeper into his own surliness.

            In a spectacular black dress with a splash of abstract color, Marion moves through the cocktail parties of her old friends with ease. She’s at home. Jack is miserable. One ray of light here is the casting of Delpy’s real parents as her parents in the film. Both are French actors with fine comic timing. One good chuckle rolls through the audience when Dad cooks up a rabbit for dinner and honors Jack with the head.

            Julie Delpy has already been called “the new Woody Allen,” and there is no question that she is a multi-dimensional filmmaker. Her script is a sharp, funny, portrait of an American worrier and a French flake. The charm of an earlier film, “Before Sunrise,” in which she starred, was that the principals had yet to face life and could live fully in the one night they had together to wander through Vienna. Now she has plunged into the full time entanglement of people looking for permanence. As much as we want to root for Jack and Marion, Katherine Hepburn’s remark echoes in our heads – “If you want to give up the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, get married.”

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