f you're like me, you may feel there's no need to see the romantic comedy 2 Days in Paris, Julie Delpy's debut film as a writer/director. Or, more precisely, you may feel that you've already seen it. Delpy is, after all, best known for her roles in Richard Linklater's movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and at first glance 2 Days in Paris looks like an unofficial sequel to those charming, low-key offerings: similar characters (a French woman--Delpy, again--and American man--Adam Goldberg, inheriting the Ethan Hawke role) gabbing their way through a similarly fraught relationship in a similarly romantic European capital. It's easy to imagine that a third installment of this tale--especially one helmed by a rookie director--could be safely, perhaps even happily, missed.
But 2 Days in Paris isn't Act 3 of anything, and it ought not to be missed. Despite the superficial similarities, Delpy's film owes far less to Linklater's earnest meanderings than it does to the barbed, hysterical comedy of early Woody Allen. There are a few moments of narrative navel-gazing--in particular, the film's limply conceived conclusion--but, for most of its runtime, 2 Days in Paris is an absolute riot.
The movie opens with a simple conceit: Marion (Delpy) and Jack (Goldberg), who have been dating for two years and have just completed an Italian holiday, arrive in Paris for a two-day visit with her family before returning to New York. From the outset, the echoes of Allen ring clearly: Delpy is the slightly flaky, Keatonesque free spirit, often pursued by men and not infrequently caught; Goldberg is the neurotic, omniphobic hypochondriac. Of the innumerable actors who have tried to ape Allen's shtick, none, apart from perhaps Albert Brooks, have brought it off as neatly as Goldberg does here, though his variation on the theme is edgier and less morose.
The jokes, too, are equal parts fresh and familiar. Having just arrived in Paris, Jack quickly reduces the line at the train-station cab stand by sending a pack of tourists from the American heartland off with fake walking directions to the Louvre. But aren't they your compatriots? Marion asks. "My compatriots?" Jack replies, irritably. "They voted for Bush." It's a joke of such geocultural specificity that it's hard to believe its author didn't grow up on the Upper West Side. Moments later, we have a variation on the Allen standard about grandmothers raped by Cossacks, when their cabbie says he wants to listen to a radio show on battered wives because "I had two wives, and I beat them both."
When Marion and Jack arrive to see her parents--she has kept a small studio apartment just upstairs from theirs--the opportunities for cultural and linguistic friction increase exponentially. Her father (played by Delpy's real-life père, Albert Delpy) is an earthy degenerate who leers at young girls and stews a whole rabbit for their first meal together. (Offered a side of carrots, Jack notes acidly, "We're going to eat the bunny's food as well?") Her mother (Delpy mère, Marie Pillet), though also a former free-lover, exercises greater restraint--at least until an erotic confession midway through the film.