Judge Joel Pearce was relieved to discover he wouldn't be spending 48 hours with a hotel heiress.
He knew Paris was for lovers. He just didn't think they were all hers.
Richard Linklater has been a highly influential indie director: he showed the world that good films can be made on location with very little budget and only a couple of cast members. Before Sunrise is one of his best-regarded films, one that focuses on two characters and their conversations, rather than on action. Twelve years later, star Julie Delpy has decided to make her own film in the same style, returning to Paris for another tale of soul-baring and inter-cultural romance.
Facts of the Case
Marion (Julie Delpy, Three Colors: White) and Jack (Adam Goldberg, Dazed and Confused) have just finished a trip to Venice and are spending two days in Marion's old home in Paris before they return to New York. They will be staying in the room above her parents' apartment, and these two days will challenge every aspect of their relationship. Indeed, it doesn't take long to see that these two seem entirely incompatible. These two days could easily mark the tragic end of their love.
It's impossible to ignore the ghost of Linklater hovering over each aspect of the film (I realize that he is still alive, but it's impossible to see 2 Days in Paris as anything but haunted by his presence). Julie Delpy has cast Goldberg, another Linklater regular, to interact with. She has used a familiar filming style to capture the story. She saves money by writing, directing, and creating music for the project. It features the same introspective, honest-yet-philosophical dialogue that we're used to seeing in Linklater productions.
Of course, there's not really anything wrong with tapping into a style that works in order to tell your own story. Once we get past the fact that she's scamming a friend's style, it's easy to get lost in this version of Paris. Delpy has constructed this, more than anything else, as a cultural comparison between France and America. Marion and her family are sexually open, loud, and emotional. Jack is neurotic, sarcastic, and just a bit prudish. While their relationship has apparently worked out well so far, Jack is completely out of place in this famous city of romance.
Most of the tension and humor come out of this microcosm of the two cultures. Delpy does a great job of using the perspective of both characters, so that neither becomes the hero or villain of the story. It is a comedy of errors, and Jack's neurosis is no more or less pathetic than Marion's checkered past. Fortunately, both these actors have had plenty of experience in this style of introspective cinema, and they both deliver believable and compelling characters. We quickly get the impression that this is a partly autobiographical story on the part of Delpy, who casts her own father as her character's father.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The film's strength is ultimately also its largest potential problem. With such a low-key style, any movements away from plausible reality call attention to themselves. It's hard to buy that Marion would meet so many of her ex-lovers on the streets of Paris (it is, after all, not a small town). Some of the characters also descend quickly into stereotype territory, which does not meld with the heartfelt leads. While Linklater weaves coincidence and imagination into the very core of his films, Delpy is trying to accomplish something different here, and it doesn't always work. We become too distracted by the crafting of the film itself, and it never becomes as invisible as she would like it to be.
That said, this is an easy recommendation for people who love romantic comedies but have become tired of the worn storytelling techniques. 2 Days in Paris offers up some genuine and surprising laughs while also reflecting on the struggles of inter-cultural romance. Delpy has made a highly vulnerable and personal project, and it has paid off for her.
Fox has also done a fine job with the DVD. I was only able to review a test screener, so I can't comment much on the video quality. The sound, however, works fine. The Dolby 5.1 track creates some ambiance while also delivering clear, easy-to-understand dialogue. The technical quality of the disc certainly shouldn't keep anyone from watching the film. There are a few extras, though not that many considering how personal a project this is for Delpy. She gives a number of interview segments, but no commentary. The interview segments are good, however, and we also get a few extended scenes.
While Delpy is certainly leaning on her experiences working with Linklater to make this project, the results are quite good. It feels sincere, and it rarely fails to deliver genuine laughs and pathos for the two main characters. It's a romantic comedy for people too jaded to appreciate them most of the time.
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