The spirit of early Woody Allen is alive and well on the streets of the French capital in “2 Days in Paris,” an entertaining, deliciously played walk-and-talker by helmer-writer-star Julie Delpy and co-star Adam Goldberg. Dialogue-driven humor, which often goes way beyond satirizing just Yank-Gallic differences, has a traditional French lightness but also a fearlessness that’s refreshing. Though the set-up sounds similar to the the two pics Delpy made with director Richard Linklater (“Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset”), the tone is much livelier and more offbeat. A fest crowdpleaser, this could go on to warm specialized B.O.
First seen on a train back from a seemingly idyllic holiday in Venice, Jack (Goldberg) and Marion (Delpy), who’ve been together two years, have decided to stop off in Paris for two days on their way home to New York. He’s an American-Jewish interior designer, with many Woodman-like neuroses, and she’s, well, she’s a slightly ditzy French photog with an eye defect.
Jack won’t even travel on the Metro because he’s afraid of a Muslim terrorist attack, but calmly misdirects a bunch of Dubya-supporting U.S. tourists they meet in the street. On the way, Marion calmly informs him she’s bought an apartment one floor up from her parents’, and that’s where they’ll be staying.
Breezy, slightly goofy humor is soon established as they settle in and try to have some quiet sacktime, before lunch with Marion’s parents, Jeannot and Anna (Albert Delpy, Marie Pillet, Delpy’s real-life parents). Lunch sequence itself, with Jack hardly speaking a word of French and mom and dad no English, is a tiny classic in itself, with Albert Delpy especially good as the father (“He’s not like the morons you usually bring home,” he tells his daughter in French).
Jack’s suspicion that the whole family is one sandwich short of a picnic is confirmed when Marion’s sister (Alexia Landeau), a child psychologist, also swings by. And his discombobulation slowly grows when they bump into one of Marion’s former boyfriends, Manu (Alex Nahon), who’s a little too familiar with Marion for Jack’s liking. When Manu turns up a party later on, Jack starts getting seriously paranoid.
Delpy’s insouciant attitude, coupled with her sudden bursts of confrontational anger, is one of the delights of the movie, never better seen than in a ferociously comical argument with a racist cab driver that ends in them climbing out of the taxi and Marion then calmly shrugging the whole thing off. Chemistry with Goldberg is excellent, with him never allowing Jack’s neuroses to become the whole part of the character.
During day two, a mini-subplot develops as Jack becomes suspicious of a guy called Mathieu (Adan Jodorowsky) sending her erotic text messages, and the tone turns slightly more serious as Marion appears to be a complete fantasist with a screw loose. Equally mocking both French and American attitudes — Delpy herself is a self-confessed “nomad” who’s been living Stateside since 1990 — pic leaves nothing sacred as it continues to dissect the differences between the pair, ending with a kind of sad, resigned shrug.
Especially at the end, script overuses Marion’s v.o., which has a downbeat poetic quality at odds with the on-screen character. However, aside from that, Delpy acquits herself well as both director and writer in her second feature — following the L.A.-set “Looking for Jimmy” (2002) — and is supported by a fine cast down the line. Delpy Sr. grabs most of the kudos here, as the quietly anarchic Jeannot, but there isn’t a weak link, even down to the racist cabbie.
Technically, Delpy’s helming is all in service of the perfs, but captures a recognizable Paris from its streets to apartments.