- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

“2 Days in Paris” was a minor but distinctive pleasure of last summer’s art-house calendar. Discovering the DVD edition should probably be an August amusement, because that’s the month when Parisians supposedly vacate the city for their own holidays and leave it to the tender mercies of tourists.

The fallacy of this cliche is one of the movie’s sources of humor. The principal male character, Adam Goldberg as an American boyfriend named Jack, remains at a conspicuous social and linguistic disadvantage for 48 hours while visiting Paris with his French girlfriend, Marion, played by Julie Delpy, who appears to finesse a blithely deceptive self-portrait while juggling responsibilities as leading lady, writer and director. (She also had a hand in the musical score, most effectively in a facetious theme song, “La-La-La,” that accompanies the final credits.)

Marion, a photographer, and Jack, an interior designer, share a residence in Manhattan. Their Paris visit comes at the end of a whirlwind European vacation. Marion retains an apartment one floor up from her hilariously Parisian parents, middle-aged bohemians impersonated by Miss Delpy’s own parents, Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, whose personalities alone make the film an endearing screwball comedy.

Far from encountering a city emptied of French residents, Jack is surrounded by native eccentrics who conspire to keep him feeling baffled and defensive — relatively easy in his case, since Jack is an obvious prejudicial-sarcastic variant on Woody Allen’s vintage comic consorts. Indeed, the central relationship rings unexpectedly clever changes off the Allen romantic farces of the 1970s and ‘80s, with Julie Delpy echoing aspects of Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow while adding her own brand of trans-Atlantic allure, whimsy and incorrigibility. (Born in Paris in 1969, Miss Delpy moved to New York in 1990. She became a naturalized citizen, so we can “claim” her fair and square.)

The most disconcerting running gag inflicted on Jack is that every excursion around town seems to bring the couple in contact with Marion’s former boyfriends. Although a handful, their sheer frequency begins to suggest a legion of old beaus must be around. The lecherous thoughts of the specimens Jack meets remain easy enough to read despite the language barrier, also a running gag that keeps him cringing.

Back on her home turf, Marion demonstrates an uncanny flair for getting into wrangles. Bigoted French cabbies are a sore point, but her combative streak isn’t confined to them. It erupts in a restaurant, when Marion is confronted with another ex, seated at a neighboring table. Evidently, she still has a score to settle and persists so rudely that she and Jack get bounced.

Jack’s lack of French leaves him shortchanged when Marion volleys profane insults with her chosen antagonists. The subtitles may give us a comic advantage over him during these outbursts, so it’s easy to share the fun and his sense of estrangement. The notion that Paris ceases to be typical in August is systematically ridiculed. If you accompany Marion, your visit will teem with local color and potential acrimony.

Miss Delpy and Mr. Goldberg evidently were romantically involved at some point in the past and remained friendly after the break-up, so their collaboration echoes the Diane Keaton-Woody Allen partnership in a personal and professional respect. They’re genuinely amusing as a romantic comedy match, or mismatch. The durability of this particular romance is always dubious, although the example of Marion’s parents might make a case for improbable longevity, assuming the younger couple can manage to live with the ways in which they get on each other’s nerves.

They’e too much alike in certain respects: both knee-jerk liberals and phobic to a fault. Nevertheless, this introduction suggests it might be fun to watch them in their New York habitat. I’m not sure a reunion is in the cards. Having found herself as a filmmaker with this second feature, and now maturing beyond her exquisite ingenue years from “Europa, Europa” to “Before Sunrise,” Miss Delpy probably has other wacky notions up her sleeve. But it will remain easy to imagine Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg as a promising romantic comedy team.

TITLE: “2 Days in Paris”

RATING: R (Sexual candor, occasional profanity and fleeting nudity)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Julie Delpy. Cinematography by Lubomire Bakchev. Sets by Barbara Marc and Soraya Mangin. Costume design by Stephane Rollot. Some dialogue in French with English subtitles.

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

DVD EDITION: Samuel Goldwyn Films/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

WEB SITE: www.foxhome.com

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