Julie Delpy is every film geek's secret French fantasy girl: brainy, sexy, fun, exotic, approachable but ultimately unattainable.
She furthers said rep in her directorial debut, which again finds her in a talky two-person romantic standoff on winding Parisian streets, though she's traded Ethan Hawke for the more acerbic and heavily tattooed Adam Goldberg. Goldberg makes a fine foil as Jack, a snarky hipster who's secretly a cluster of insecurities, mostly because he's forever chasing after lovely Marion (Delpy), a wispy free spirit with impulse control issues.
The action takes place at the tail end of a European vacation the squabbling New York City couple must survive a few days on Marion's old Paris stomping grounds, which overflow with her ex-boyfriends and countless one-time flings. Enter Jack's deep well of neurosis, as every male face on the street could be her former torch-carrier.
Add to the mix her chaotic relatives, brilliantly played by Delpy's real parents (Albert and Marie), a pair of bickering, faded countercultural relics floating in cigarette smoke, right out of a Serge Gainsbourg lyric. (Dad still has an eye for women and drawing sexually graphic cartoons, while overly solicitous Mom enters the couples' upstairs guest bedroom without knocking.)
It's all too close for Jack's comfort, especially when he discovers a private photo of him with balloons tied to his wang proudly displayed to the whole household because, you know, "It's so funny." And we see her beguiling and needy sister (Aleksia Landeau) and a gaggle of friends and party guests who assault Jack with lame jokes and half-witted opinions about America, which he half-listens to while scanning the room for anyone who may have once had a tryst with Marion.
Fleeting political barbs abound too, such as the ugly Midwestern "Da Vinci Code Breaker" tourists that Jack intentionally misdirects because "they probably voted for Bush." There's a dustup when cops mistake Jack for an Arabic thug. If the humor were a bit broader it would be Meet the Parents Goes to Europe, but Delpy's slyer than that, and she achieves an antic, uncomfortable hilarity that recalls the lost gem Flirting With Disaster. Sure they're riffing on classic Woody and Diane, but the characters here are allowed to breathe and the actors aren't afraid to push them to the unlikable edges.
Despite some first-time director jitters, 2 Days in Paris is a tiny, fleeting delight, a scenic gem filled with flashes of insight and funny, natural dialogue.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.