Monday, December 8, 2014

I'd Love to Turn You On At the Movies #105 - 2 Days in Paris / 2 Days in New York (2007 / 2012, dir. Julie Delpy)

Indie film goddess Julie Delpy made 2 Days in Paris and 2 Days in New York because she was tired of seeing romantic comedies that cast 30- and 40-something actresses as women who, as she explained to The Guardian in 2012, have “the problems of a 25-year-old. Like, should I date him, should I not date him? Should I have sex with him but tell him I don't like him? OK. I mean, I have friends who are still single, but even they don't ask themselves those kind of questions. They've evolved into something else." In both films, she plays Marion, a French woman who’s already in a relationship and the plot follows them through the time-honored challenge of meeting the parents, which in these films is a particular challenge because her boyfriends, played by Adam Goldberg in Paris and Chris Rock in New York, are kind of uptight and Marion’s relatives are so uninhibited they’re almost nuts. Played by Delpy’s actual parents, they’re aging French radicals, veterans of the 1968 revolution, and they’re eccentric to say the least. In Paris, her dad serves for their first meal together a braised rabbit, eyeballs and floppy ears and all, and spends the evening quizzing her poor beau on obscure French painters and poets. Later on, her mom bumps into him as he’s coming out of the shower, naked, and in slow, broken English she waxes nostalgic about being a member of an all-female activist group called the “343 Sluts” and brags about sleeping with Jim Morrison. On the family’s visit to New York in the sequel, her sister brings along a pot-smoking quasi boyfriend and blatantly hits on Rock’s character.
            All of which allows Delpy to shine as an actress, to flesh out a marvelously complex character, at times mature and confident, other times neurotic and volatile. In Paris, she loudly condemns an ex in a crowded restaurant for traveling to Asia and buying child prostitutes, and in New York she filets an art critic who panned one of her exhibitions. And she’s got a rather bawdy sense of humor that’s refreshing and hilarious. She’s comfortable with sex—not in a one-dimensional Hollywood kind of way, like some kind of overly horny vixen, but like a real woman who’s experienced life and isn’t hung up about it, who’s been with quite a few men in her life and she’s not at all ashamed about it, who can say “blow job” without blushing or lowering her voice, even in the face of her current boyfriends’ jealous uneasiness. She’s sure of herself in all the ways that traditional rom-com leads don’t seem to be, and yet has enough hang-ups and flaws—occasional hysterical outbursts and more frequent insensitivity to her guys’ insecurities—to make her come across like a real person. As a result, the movie gets to a deeper place because instead of hanging on to the question of when the two will get together, it asks where will this situation take them, whether they’ll stay together or fall apart, and what will they learn about each other and themselves. Unlike more typical rom-coms, there’s no way to know for sure how these questions will be answered and that makes the zany cross-cultural fun all the more alive with delicious tension. And when the answers arrive, it’s so much more satisfying.

            - Joe Miller

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