Jack (Adam Goldberg) and Marion (Julie Delpy) have been in a relationship for a couple of years now, and are based in Jack's native New York, but recently they have taken a trip to Venice to see the sights there. They certainly did, and Marion feels that her boyfriend spent more time snapping photos than he did paying attention to what was before his eyes and enjoying the experience, not to mention paying attention to her. Now they have arrived in Paris so Jack can meet her parents and get to see the city that Marion called home...
The shadow of Richard Linklater loomed large over writer, director and star Julie Delpy's 2 Days in Paris, for like the two films she took the female lead in for him, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, this was a story of a relationship played out as a series of conversations around a city. If there was a degree more structure to this that was missing from those efforts, and a stronger echo of Woody Allen in the dialogue, then that was what marked it out, and for the first half hour it looks like we're in for a whole movie of Gallic quirks that actual Parisians may or may not recognise as pertaining to their own environment.
The sense was that this was less for those who lived in the place, and more for those who were thinking of visiting or indeed had done so already, as the feeling of being in a location that is unfamiliar, which is how the Jack character feels as he struggles with the language, is what runs through this most strongly. Perhaps Delpy had spent enough time away from Paris by the stage she made her film that she could sympathise with those who were left bewildered by its people, although she does like to make out its denizens to be as eccentric as possible, sometimes in a warm hearted fashion, as with Marion's parents (who were played by Delpy's actual parents).
But other times you get the impression she's less well disposed towards the Parisians, with every taxi driver they meet displaying some kind of unpleasant trait, be it racist or anti-homosexual, or even simply being overbearing with respect to women as the driver who tells Marion he'd like to give her children was. It's as if Delpy didn't want to sugar coat her take on the area and its population, so this was less a love letter than you might have expected, and actually the love affair that it depicts, the one between Jack and Marion, goes seriously off the rails with the sense that it's somehow the fault of the city and what it has done to them.
The middle section is the best, where the story calms down after all that idiosyncrasy of the opening, a period that seems frantically trying to engage with the attention of the audience, and we can get to know the couple as they make their way around the streets and Jack acquaints himself with the people Marion used to know. This includes her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau), who she becomes jealous of when she notices Jack talking to her and she can't hear what the conversation is about so expects the worst, but actually Jack ends up feeling that envy more sharply. He cannot get used to the idea that they keep bumping into Marion's exes, and the notion that to get along with someone you love means having to accept they have a past, just as you do, is what concerns the remainder of the film, where it turns more serious and less lively. All in all, it's a bit like three films packed into one, but when it's good, it is worthwhile. Music by Delpy and Gustav Heden.