Over the weekend, I saw Two Days in Paris, a film written, directed, and starring Julie Delpy. Here’s the trailer:
The movie is about Marion, played by Delpy, and Jack, played by Adam Goldberg, who spend two days in Paris on their way back home to New York after a vacation in Venice. Marion is French and grew up in Paris. She is therefore naturally looking forward to showing Jack the city and introducing him to her friends.
Jack, who is an interior designer by trade, is a rather difficult person even under the best of circumstances, but meeting Marion’s too familiar parents is just the beginning of his troubles in Paris. It turns out that Marion has remained friends with many of her exes, and every time she and Jack go anywhere they inevitably run into one of them. What first seems a funny coincidence quickly becomes the bane of Jack’s existence, especially when he starts to wonder just how friendly Marion remains with one ex in particular.
I thought this movie was delightful, but I have to admit that I’m a total sucker for Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, and movies set in Paris. So, this was cinematic feast for me. I laughed throughout he film — it’s hilarious: Marion’s mother walks in on them while they’re having sex, for example, and Marion seems to think nothing of it. Similarly, we learn early in the movie that Marion has given her family a copy of a picture of Jack nude with a balloon tied around his penis (Adam Goldberg is HOT, by the way, in this picture!) And I laughed until it hurt during a scene in which Marion’s cat, who has grown rather stout in the two weeks that Marion and Jack were in Italy, is the focus of a family argument. The cat steals the show simply by being passed around like a sack of potatoes. It’s hilarious!
Delpy and Goldberg seemed to hit the perfect note as the troubled couple. As we observe their various errands and social activities in Paris, we begin to see that, while they genuinely seem to love each other, their relationship is in severe trouble. Jack is already feeling emasculated before he meets Marion’s former boyfriends, and Marion is feeling trapped and stifled by Jack’s constant complaining and hypochondria. The fact that he constantly takes pictures during their vacation — she’s a professional photographer — just adds fuels to the fire.
One of the things that I like most about the movie is that it pokes fun at both Americans and Parisians. Stereotypes of the ignorant American are lampooned along side the image of the unwashed and sex-obsessed French. Delpy’s script is an equal opportunity satire that examines both nation’s foibles, but she does so with a smile and a genuine love for both — I never got the sense that she hated Americans or was glad to get away from the French. She loves both cultures and can poke fun at them without it becoming mean-spirited (she’s not trying to be Alexander Pope, in other words). I’d put the scene in which Jack can’t get a French condom on because it’s too small in this category too.
Indeed, considering its sardonic wit, Two Days in Paris is surprisingly sweet. This couple loves each other, but Jack and Marion are also self-obsessed and annoying. This back and forth between sweetness and irritation makes the movie a little awkward at times, but I liked it anyway. It seemed truer than most movies in this way.
Another aspect that I liked was how the movie worked in the fact that Jack’s French isn’t very good. Many of these scenes are witty and humorous, as when one of Marion’s exes asks him if he speaks French; when he says, “No,” the ex continues to speak to Marion in French. There’s also a good scene in which Jack and Marion are at a restaurant for lunch. When Marion begins to argue with a man seated next to them, Jack has no idea why she’s suddenly yelling at the man (he too turns out to be an ex). When she turning to him and calmly stating that it’s nothing, Jack’s irritation at Marion’s obvious untruth is completely understandable. The frustration that Jack feels by being excluded from many of Marion’s conversations with her family, friends, and exes builds, and I think the audience and sympathize with his response. This sense of exclusion is important, since it’s at the heart of Jack’s problem in this relationship — he feels excluded from really knowing Marion, which makes sense since they’re from two very different cultures. The language barrier is just the most obvious sign of their cultural differences.
Delpy does a great job in writing, directing, and acting in this film. Maybe its because I’m a guy, but I thought that she was wise to have the movie more from Jack’s perspective than from Marion’s.
So, I really enjoyed this movie. It made me laugh and I thought that its depiction of relationships is more genuine and true to life than most people would want to admit. And you get to see Adam Goldberg naked with a balloon — what more could one ask?!