Except when she says "Polaroid," or when there's an "s" at the end of a word, the French actress Julie Delpy speaks English perfectly and almost without accent. She knows our country, and its language, very well.
That could be the impetus behind 2 Days in Paris, a charming little movie that she wrote and directed, and in which she stars with Adam Goldberg. The story of Marion and Jack -- on their way home to New York, from a vacation in Venice, and spending two days at the house of her parents (played by Delpy's real-life parents) -- may not sound familiar. But Delpy's little film owes its inspiration to Annie Hall, from her spirited character's wild hair and horn-rimmed glasses to Goldberg's hypochondria and fine whine.
Fortunately, there's more, especially in the metaphor department. Marion has a retinal condition that makes her see everything obscured with black dots. Her profession: photographer, of course. Jack lies about directions to the Louvre to a group of American code-chasers (as in The Da Vinci Code) wearing Bush-Cheney T-shirts. He has allergies, he won't ride the Metro (fear of terrorists), and he rails against Marion's leaky old family home when he finds mold in the bathroom. This is any Woody Allen character, a generation younger, for Allen is now old enough to be Jack's father. That's a metaphor, too.
The couple seems to be mismatched from the start, although what's that they say about opposites? A beautiful French woman, a hairy Jewish man with a nasal voice: Paris is truly the City of Love. Marion could do worse, I suppose: Delpy starred in Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke, who looks like he never bathes. In fact, French bathing habits, and the American obsession with cleanliness, are among the myriad cross-cultural topics on which Delpy's breezy screenplay wittily riffs.
Another one is blowjobs. She says they're no big thing compared to all the problems of the world. He reminds her that a blowjob "almost brought down America's last chance at a healthy democracy." She says the French always stay friends with ex-lovers. He observes: "France is responsible for a lot of your personal behavior." And so again it's true what they say: A woman wants a man with a sense of humor.
Marion and Jack are both bright and engaged, nerdy and intellectual. Their arguments begin in the movie's first scene and never stop -- so, dramatically, it's sometimes hard to tell when things threaten to become serious. But Delpy is a deft writer and an energetic director, and she brings her story to a dangerous, albeit quirky, climax. Although she's harder on Marion and the French than she is on Jack and the Americans, her movie is finally just a romantic comedy, not any sort of cinematic new wave. In English and French, with subtitles.