It’s one thing to create a cast of characters who are understandably flawed and unlikable. It’s something different altogether for a film to depend on these profoundly unhinged people and to expect sound judgment to be passed upon them.
Julie Delpy (“Before Sunset”) develops and embodies these types of players. The writer and first-time director of “2 Days in Paris,” she also casts herself as Marion, a French expatriate with a split personality who returns home to Paris for a two-day visit. As the girlfriend of Jack (Adam Goldberg, “Zodiac”), Marion is demure and compliant, while her French alter ego is a commitment-phobic, sex-crazed liar. Neither side is particularly attractive since the audience is never quite sure how to relate to either.
After a tour of Europe, Marion and Jack decide to pay a visit to Marion’s family before returning home to New York. There Jack discovers the truth about his lover and her dubious past. Running into an ex is unlucky, but to run into multiple in a couple days’ time (think double digits) seems indicative of more.
Though Delpy’s style is rudimentary and neoclassic, the movie seems to think the audience is stupid. It begins and ends with extended voice-over that endlessly sums up what’s happened and what it means. The final voice-over monologue is more a neat parable than a worthwhile moral. The bleak lives of these two bleak characters are encapsulated in one bleak – and hardly brief – soliloquy.
The supporting characters provide the film’s only solace. They range from the optimistic to the absurd, but they always leave Delpy and Goldberg to bring the mood down to a dull roar. Take Marion’s parents: Both are hypersexual and eccentric, at one point leading Jack to remark, “Oh great, the mother is a slut too.” Every moment this unlikely couple interacts begs for the comic relief of an ex or relative, and such release comes none too often.
Though not without pockets of wit and insight, “2 Days in Paris” would serve better as an anti-dating guide than a story about lovers. The performances do little to hide the ill-defined roles. Perhaps if a greater chunk of the action was removed and replaced with dead air, the desolate ending would have been more palatable.
2 Days in Paris
At the Michigan Theater
Rating: 2 out of 5 stairs