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2 Days in Paris: Perfectly Imperfect

I'm almost afraid to write about 2 Days in Paris, as if somehow, by writing about it, it won't be a precious memory in my mind anymore. That sounds sappy and overwrought, but the fact is, I adored this movie more than any other movie I've seen in a long time. It's possible that the movie happened to hit all the right notes at all the right times for me personally. It's also possible that 2 Days in Paris is just a very good movie. I believe it's the latter.

Julie Delpy (who also wrote, directed, and composed music for the film) stars as Marion, a French photographer with an eye defect who goes on a vacation to Europe with her American boyfriend, Jack (Adam Goldberg), a hypochondriac with a jealous streak. In the movie's first moments, you see the couple asleep on a train, she wearing a silkscreened T-shirt with a picture of a gun that is, not coincidentally, pointing right at Jack. The two of them are on their way back from a trip to Venice that, while not exactly a disaster, was not a whirlwind of romance either. Before heading home, they need to pick up their cat at Marion's parents' house in Paris — and that's where things really get bad.

Jack, who speaks not a word of French, feels marooned in a foreign land where everything is moldy and everyone has dated his girlfriend. Marion is no saint, either, having dallied with her share of men; she plays right into Jack's phobias by stroking the sweater of a fireman who comes to the apartment one morning and taking Jack to a party filled with probable exes. They're already a bickering couple, but Jack's suspicions — and Marion's egging on — propel them to quarreling of world record proportions. The "crazy American in Paris" stuff is funny, but where the movie really hits home is in its portrayal of flawed adult love, so

Jack and Marion seem like such a mismatch; we can sense the love between them, but their insecurities and fears keep it from coming out. Marion is beautiful and smart and funny, but she's also deeply angry; when she picks a fight with a cab driver, Jack looks like he would rather just be stranded on the streets of Paris than have to defend this crazy woman. For his part, Jack is sarcastic and neurotic and jealous, though it's not without reason. I kept wishing for them to just cut each other a break, but instead of bugging me like it would in most movies, their arguments felt raw and real. You know those fights you have with someone you love, epic battles where you're just yelling and screaming and suddenly you realize you have no idea what you're even angry about or how the fight started? This movie is like one of those fights, but with the most tender outcome possible.

The movie has its missteps; Marion's parents (played by Delpy's actual parents, both French actors) are best when dealing with Jack and Marion, not pursuing story lines of their own. There also are a few scenes toward the end of the film where Marion's ugly side gets so outrageous that I wondered if Delpy had gone too far; they're awkward and uncomfortable, presumably on purpose, but they nearly undermined my belief that Marion was a good person underneath her copious flaws.

But I can overlook those problems, because 2 Days in Paris is, at its heart, a smart, sweet, and truly unconventional love story — the kind of love story we hardly ever see on screen. It's not a sweep-you-off-your-feet romance; it's not a fiasco. It's just two fundamentally screwed-up people doing their best to muddle through, being perfectly imperfect together.


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