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2 Days in Paris

A Promising Debut

Written, directed by, and starring Julie Delpy, 2 Days in Paris, a romantic comedy/drama set in (where else) Paris, is a surprisingly effective, insightful exploration of romantic relationships, cultural differences, and how the two, when mixed together, can cause serious problems.

Surprisingly well written and directed by Delpy, whoís familiar to American audiences from her collaborations with Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, Before Sunrise), Delpy shows a fine ear for character-revealing dialogue. Strong as all that is, Delpy's ill-advised decision to include redundant voiceover narration suggests she still needs to learn a thing or two about storytelling before she can be recognized as a unique indie filmmaker.

After two years, the French-born Marion (Julie Delpy) and the American-born Jack (Adam Goldberg) seemed poised for a permanent commitment. Both in their thirties and sanguine about the vicissitudes associated with romantic relationships, Marion and Jack have seemingly accepted each otherís failings. Marion tends toward the melodramatic; Jack tends toward the neurotic.

Both are self-obsessed and, therefore, perfect for each other. But first, they must spend two days in Marionís hometown, Paris, after a weeklong trip to Venice that didnít go as smoothly as either had hoped. Marion, a photographer, left her camera home. Jack, an interior designer, took his camera with him and snapped photos at every opportunity.

The minor strains of traveling together, however, are nothing compared to what, or rather who, awaits Marion and Jack back in Paris: Marionís father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy), Marion's mother, Anna (Marie Pillet), and her younger sister, Rose (Aleksia Landeau), a child psychologist. Marionís parents are eligible for the senior citizen discount, but that doesnít stop them from making wildly inappropriate comments about sex.

For Jack, who canít speak French, his experiences in Paris goes from bad (e.g., Marionís parents commenting about his looks, including his genitalia), to worse (e.g., running into Marionís overly affectionate ex-boyfriends) and the potentially disastrous (e.g., being confused for an Arab purse thief). Jackís fears and anxieties get the better of him and Marionís confessional slip-ups donít help, leading them, inevitably, to the heavy-duty relationship talk.

While Jack resembles nothing less than a Woody Allen character complete with nervous tics, neuroses, and self-pitying attitude, the French and their cultural predilections also get skewered by Delpy. Those choices might be questionable on some level, but they're there to serve the story and themes. More objectionable is Delpy's wrongheaded use of voiceover narration, all of it redundant and/or awkwardly delivered at various times, but most egregiously during the first and last scenes.

As Marion and Jack yell and scream out their frustrations, with their future together in the balance, Delpy cuts off the dialogue for a self-conscious, less-than-insightful rumination about the hows and whys of breakups. Cutting the dialogue at that point does a disservice to Delpy the actress and her co-star, Goldberg. Itís hard to understand her rationale, unless she was trying for some kind of French New Wave distancing effect? Even if she was, it's a choice that a novice filmmaker shouldnít have used their first feature-length film. Hopefully, Delpy's next filmmaking project wonít suffer from the same problems.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars