Sunday, September 16, 2007

2 Days in Paris

I didn't think I wanted to see "2 Days in Paris." Julie Delpy, romance, Paris, a restricted time frame - bad flashback to "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," movies which I always thought I should like but found extremely dull.

But then "2 Days" stayed at the theater across the street for weeks, and I wanted to see something new, and I have always sorta liked Adam Goldberg since "Dazed and Confused."

(Interestingly, from his imdb profile, it seems that Goldberg was an uncredited "man sleeping on a train" in "Before Sunrise," which was directed by Richard Linklater, who also directed "Dazed and Confused," making this an even more incestuous group of artists than I'd thought. "2 Days" even opens with Delpy's and Goldberg's characters sleeping on a train.)

"2 Days in Paris" is different than I expected: funnier, stranger, and less romantic. It's more about breaking up than falling in love. There are some great moments caused by Goldberg's character Jack's inability to understand the French conversations around him; not a "Three's Company" series of cliche misunderstandings, but realistic scenes where Delpy's Marion has rapid full conversations with her friends and family and he wanders clueless beside her, with only intermittent feedings of English to try to keep up. I'm sure that's what it's really like to be in the home country of your girlfriend when you don't know the language: isolating, uncomfortable, and mostly dull. Goldberg plays it really well, even as he becomes more and more paranoid by what he observes and thinks he observes. Again, this is not "Three's Company" and it's less about Jack being wrong than about how he can react to things he isn't sure he fully understands.

One of the more annoying features of the film was a regular voice over by Marion, filling in gaps and telling you her views on what you just saw. I hate voice overs, because mostly they are unnecessary and lazy. In this movie that is still true, although there is a strange scene near the end where Marion starts by summarizing a scene that you are watching play out without sound. It's almost as if Delpy felt the movie were running long and decided to sum it up with a few sentences rather than lose her audience, and even though it's ostensibly the dramatic moment the whole film has been building towards, we're privy to an abbreviated version. I was about to throw up my hands but as it unfolded I realized this was a scene that would have been tedious to watch play out in real time, and it was just possible that Delpy's choice was less lazy than strategic. Does it matter, in the end, how things are resolved/unresolved, as long as the film lets us glimpse that they somehow are? It's a good question, and not one I expected to have been left with at the end of a fairly innocuous romantic comedy.

I will also give Delpy credit for some wonderful,natural sounding dialogue, and some situations that were so bizarre you simply had to believe they could be true (especially under the American assumptions about the French.) For example, her father (played by Delpy's real life father) eats the heads of rabbits and is an artist as fixated on penises as the young Seth in "Superbad." Her mother has a racy past that she can barely find enough English to confide to Jack, but channels all of her former wildness into carefully ironing his jeans.

Last night I would have said I didn't really like the movie, but after a night's sleep, I've reconsidered. Despite its flaws (like an early reveal that Marion has very poor limited vision, a point that is never addressed again, despite how much it might impact her life choices), it's funny and smart and ultimately satisfying.


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