Marion and Jack have been together for two years. Marion is French, Jack is American, and at the end of their European holiday they stop by Marion’s home city of Paris for two days (hence the title), where they happen to bump into numerous men from Marion’s past, forcing Jack to question their relationship after a series of “hilarious” misunderstandings.
The above synopsis screams “rom-com” to me, and would have been a film I’d have avoided with effort, like I do with those people giving out free newspapers on the streets (they’re on the bus, they’re in my office, I don’t want any more so stop looking offended when I don’t take one. They’re free - leave them on the street and we’ll help ourselves if we want to.) But, as I seem to be mellowing with age, I gave it a go and did not leave the cinema with the usual cynical sneer and nausea.
Hats off, then, to Julie Delphy, who not only played Marion, but also wrote, directed and composed the score for this film. Smarty pants. Delphy’s story is nothing particularly new, but her delivery is frank, realistic and a little charming too. The ties between Marion and Jack feel real, filled with the nuances of a couple who have spent two years together. Squabbles, in-jokes, comfort and those niggling doubts when considering the future. As with Knocked Up, this adds a neat thorn to the usual rose-tinted view of romance.
Delphy gels with Adam Goldberg’s Jack, the two creating scenes that feel improvised, riffing off each other rather than just trawling through lines on a script. The film has several shades of ‘funny’, be it sweet little directorial touches, wry banter between family, or abstract moments like a crazy man on the tube (Goldberg’s method for scaring him away was particularly memorable).
At times the tone wavered into dodgy territory, showing France from Jack’s American perspective as a strange place, with strange traditions, full of strange foreigners doing and eating stranger things. Ooo those weird French, the Americans will be thinking (replace ‘weird’ with ‘bloody’ if you’re British). Poor old Jack, stuck in that weird country. Let’s laugh at the foreigners and their silly culture. Occasionally I had to remind myself that Delphy is French herself, quelling my assumptions that this is your usual naff Hollywood rom-com that’s set itself in a ‘foreign’ country to give the lazy writers extra jokes. And on looking deeper, Delphy tags on a few American stereotypes, with some digs about their attitude towards terrorism. She makes Jack form his own stereotypes of his surroundings and mirrors it with her family’s attitude towards ‘the American’ that she’s brought into their midst.
By steering Jack and Marion’s main problems towards the issue of thirty-something relationships, Delphy just about avoids making this another boring culture-clash flick. Instead she looks into relationships, how people cope with their destruction, with their past, and with never really knowing the other person. It’s slightly uplifting yet slightly depressing too.
Delphy and Goldberg’s chemistry add to Delphy’s strong script and playful direction. Dig into the bag of adjectives and you can bring out funny, charming, sweet, real and absorbing. Not overly original in concept, but still nicely done, 2 Days in Paris matches its days for CF points (that’s CF2 if you can’t figure it out.)