“It always fascinated me how people go from loving you madly to nothing at all, nothing. It hurts so much.”
With the Before trilogy, director Richard Linklater, along with his stars and co-writers, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, created a very specific kind of movie. Movies all about the macro of relationships, set against en exotic European backdrop, with a tight time line. This feeling of almost real time is a major part of what makes Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight work so well. These are everyday people, making everyday decisions, but the urgency makes them seem world changing. Like they would if you were that everyday person, making that everyday decision. I would never say that 2 Days in Paris is in any way a rip off of the Before movies. But you can definitely see their influence all over 2 Days in Paris.
Marion (Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) have just finished a long, romantic holiday in Venice. Well, they may have intended it to be romantic, but it seems that they have worked their way to be on the very edge of each other’s last nerve. On their way back to New York, they stop for two days in Paris, staying in Delpy’s rarely used apartment, which just so happens to be above that of her parents’ (played by her real life parents, Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy).
Jack’s first experience with Marion’s family, and her French life in general, he’s immediately thrown when he realises there’s a lot more in Marion’s history than their years together in New York have ever lead him to believe. Ex-lovers, long running family in-jokes and emotional scars, and the general differences between life in America and life in Europe. The language barrier doesn’t help the situation either, as Marion semi regularly has conversations obviously about Jack, in front of Jack, in French.
The majority of 2 Days in Paris is two people talking about their relationship and what makes it work… Or, more importantly, what makes it not work. But it never goes for the rambling, stream of consciousness philosophising of the Before trilogy. This is a much tighter, structured, direct analysis of its characters’ relationships. It does a great job of showing these people at their worst and making a case for them breaking up. But at the same time, there are times when you know that while Jack and Marion are probably headed for disaster, there is an undeniable spark between them that can’t be ignored.
Delpy made a follow up to 2 Days in Paris a couple of years ago with 2 Days in New York. Chris Rock in the role of her boyfriend has always made me pretty wary of the sequel. As an actor, Rock has just never convinced me. And so much of what I liked about 2 Days in Paris was how real and believable the characters were. But now, having seen the result of Delpy writing and directing a movie, Chris Rock’s inclusion has gone from being a major deterrent, to one of the most intriguing attributes.