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Monday, August 13, 2007

Film Review: 2 Days in Paris : Woody Allen Inside Yet Another Young Woman?!

Julie Delpy stakes her claim to multi-hyphenate status with her new film 2 Days in Paris and judging by the evidence she has a future in acting/writing/ directing/scoring (all of which she does here) and perhaps even prop mistressing and best boy-ing. One fear I had going into this was that it would be a knockoff of the charming Richard Linklater films she starred in, the Sunrise/Sunset duology which she also co-wrote. The second fear was that this would be a big-screen adaptation of the Internet phenomenon One Night in Paris starring America's charmingest heiress.
Neither of these fears were fulfilled thankfully and Delpy instead shows herself to be an assured director in the mold of classic period (Annie Hall, Manhattan) Woody Allen. She's Allen if he had been born in France as a quadrilingual blonde woman. This crucial difference in gender, venue, age etc. means that Delpy's take on the classic Allen-esque relationship farce is unique and personal. As if to emphasize this and also wink at the New York Jewish neurotic character at the core of Allen's opuses Delpy casts the engaging Adam Goldberg as her foil. Goldberg generally plays variations on this same character but when he has the right script and a sympathetic director he's a pleasure to watch. There is enough depth and nuance here to display the range and acting chops that underpin his rapid fire sarcasm and nervous paranoia. Delpy plays a woman who is smart and prickly, flirtatious and principled, self-absorbed but also caring. They alternate in engaging and repelling the audience, a tricky fine line that is walked to perfection as our allegiance shifts around and both characters' flaws and finer points come into focus.
Like Woody Allen, Delpy also uses many real people from her personal life (including Goldberg) to play what can only be presumed to be variations on themselves. Especially amusing are her actual parents, playing her fictional parents as off-the-wall bohemians. A scene where Delpy confronts her drama-queen mother about over-feeding the cat while her lusty earthy father tosses out deprecations is a comic gem.
Delpy and Goldberg play a couple who are passing through Delpy's original hometown of Paris on the way back to their home in New York. The strains of their relationship start to show, exacerbated by a series of ex-boyfriends, Goldberg's inability to understand French, allergies, and an embarrassing photograph. In the wrong hands this could all come off as hackneyed or falsely whimsical but Delpy finds just the right balance with hilarious screwball comedy dialogue and culture clashes that cut both ways. The cherry on the cake is her jaundiced view of Paris, at once fond but clear eyed. Her Paris is populated by rude chauvinist cabdrivers, Muslim ghettos, tourists on and off acid, and bad plumbing.
It's the ultimate anti-romantic touch in what turns out to be a rom-com for people who hate rom-coms.
4 Out of 5 croissants:

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