Julie Delpy is almost frighteningly talented. She writes, acts, directs, and composes music — and she does all four in 2 Days in Paris, one of my favorite films of the year so far. Delpy and Adam Goldberg play Marion and Jack, a lovably mismatched couple who spend a disastrous two days with Marion's family. The movie goes beyond culture-clash humor and settles in the much richer territory of romantic relationships, which is what Delpy and I talked about on her recent trip to San Francisco.
You’re really all over this story: you’re in it, you wrote it, you directed it. I’m wondering where it came from for you.
Well, I wanted to do a story about something that scares me the most, which is — apart from death or losing someone I love physically, outside of the big, really horrible stuff in life — breaking up with people. I just wanted to approach it in a comedic way, because all my life, breaking up has been horribly painful — or being dumped, even more painful. But breaking up with someone is very painful too. It's almost impossible for me. I get too attached to people, I can't hurt people. I’ve done it a few times. I did it very badly too, because I don't know how to manage, so I disappear, like I could be dead, I’m so bad at it. And when I feel that someone doesn’t love me anymore and I can see that in their eyes, it's heartbreaking.
I went in thinking "Oh, it's going to be one of those culture clash things." But it's so much more about their relationship.
I mean, the culture difference stuff is fun, but it's mostly about conflict within a relationship and how to make a relationship work. Especially with two neurotic people. Psychotic and neurotic.
They’re so imperfect together, and then that’s kind of perfect.
Yeah, yeah, I know! Adam was always worried that my character was so unlikable. He kept telling me all the time, "She’s so horrible, your character" and "my character, I don’t want to make him unlikable." And to me it was much more exiting to make unlikable characters likable. He’s always grumpy, and he’s kind of an unbearable guy, but at the same time, with all the shit that happens to him, you start to really feel for him. She’s unbearable — I mean, she snaps at people, she's flirtatious, she’s like the worst nightmare — but at the same time, she snaps at racists, at pedophiles, you know and she's in a way protecting him. So to me it was a lot of fun to take these characters that are so anti-heroes and make them into almost likable people, or at least people you follow and embrace until the end of the film.
More from Julie, so
Who was Jack in your head, and how did you find him?
I really wrote it for Adam, so for me it was very important that he was playing the part. Before I even wrote most of the thing, I had him in my head and I had a few meetings with him to talk about his character, talk about the relationship. I wanted him to be true to something, a quality [Adam] has, which is neurotic but at the same time kind of hip, kind of edgy, grumpy. I did inspire myself a bit on who Adam is, but also on very different people as well. Adam has not at all the jealous streak in him. He’s way too good-looking to be jealous of another man — I mean, that’s what he thinks of himself. But I like that, I think it's cool, because it's hipper that the typical kind of neurotic Jewish guy.
What is at the heart of them? Is it love? Or is it sort of resignation, like, "Well, I guess this is what we’re going to get"?
I think there’s love at the heart of it. It's not "as good as it gets," it's more "there’s love here, so should we let our environment and our neuroses and our anxiety destroy it? Or should we cherish and make it work, through all our differences and imperfections?"
Of course, I have to ask a Before Sunrise, Before Sunset question. What is it that you think has made those movies so enduring?
I think it's because it's the ultimate fantasy of love, which is meeting someone, you fall in love — love at first sight. In the second film, it's ... that person reappears into your life and it's right. So after all your little childhood fantasies about the person in your life, it's actually true. It’s a really deep fantasy in a lot of people's minds about the idea of the one that’s made for you is out there. It's really a very romantic idea of love, in an old fashioned way, almost.
Which seems kind of a different kind of love from the 2 Days in Paris love.
Yeah, this film is not the fantasy of romantic love. In a way, it's almost closer to my idea of romantic love, which is finding love in the everyday life with someone. If there was a third Before Sunset, that would be the reality of everyday life, you know, how do you keep the love good and going. Here, it's kind of like they make it exciting by arguing. But I think the end is romantic. It's about making the effort, and accepting who the person is — with all their sneezing and the obnoxious side to them.