30 August 2007

2 Days in Paris

I really did not expect to like this movie. I figured it was gonna be like Before Sunrise/Sunset, and was chuckling to myself that it could be subtitled "Sometime Around Mid-day". Maybe it's because I'm in my mid-twenties, maybe it's the particular state of mind I've been in lately, but I've got to say, with only a slight twinge of embarassment, that the movie totally won me over.

It started, curiously enough, with the previews. It was the first time in a long time that I have actually wanted to see the movies advertised by the previews (with the exception of Ira and Abby, which looks like absolute crap*). I had this strange feeling like, wow, these are previews geared towards a specific target audience, and what do you know, apparently I fit into it quite neatly. Yowza.

But anyhow, the movie itself is surprisingly hilarious.

In many ways, it IS similar to the Sunrise/Sunset films, in that it's basically following a couple around and watching them interact. But, as my friend pointed out, whereas those films are about these escapist fantasy relationships that never have to encounter reality, this movie is quite the opposite - it's a couple who is attempting to go on vacation but can't really escape the reality of their day-to-day relationship.

More importantly, though, is that this movie has those same kind of pseudo-philosophical reflections of the Sunrise/Sunset movies - but with a pinch of cynicism. So, for instance, Julie Delpy saying that she learned recently that women use more toilet paper than men because they wipe when they pee, and good god think about the waste and destruction, because she mourns it everytimes she's on the toilet, is something that in the earlier movies would have been uttered earnestly, in a way that would imply that this is a profound thought that the viewer should also consider. Whereas here, it's delivered in the middle of a neurotic outburst and is portrayed as perhaps kind of interesting and charming, but ultimately somewhat silly and melodramatic. Likewise, Julie Delpy responds to Adam Goldberg's obsession with the small world theory not with rapture, but by rolling her eyes and saying, "yeah, ok, it's kind of interesting, but come on, get over yourself". But these ideas aren't totally scoffed at and dismissed (the small world theory, for instance, is cleverly interwoven into the film in a very elegant way, rather than the heavy handed treatment one would expect).

Also, as stated, there are some uproariously funny moments in the film. About 20 minutes in, there's a sequence with the pet cat that is sheer genius. That cat should earn an Oscar for his performance. Seriously, he's amazing. There are so many scenes that, while they may stretch credibility a bit, are wonderfully witty and marvelously amusing. The humor alone makes the movie worth watching.

Finally, though, and here's where my twinge of embarrassment comes in, I think the movie is actually an excellent portrayal of relationships. Aside from the sex scenes, which I found rather obnoxiously ridiculous, I thought that the film captured something really essential about the way that two people in a relationship interact. Not to mention some nice, albeit exaggerated, points about the awkwardness of meeting your partner's family, and the trials and travails of cross-cultural romance. The final scene, especially, which some critics have panned, to me was so incredibly life-like that it was almost uncomfortable to watch.

The New Republic's review (which one should not read before seeing the movie) dogs on the ending of the film as an overly simplistic rushjob, and deplores in particular the way that voice-over narration plays a major role, but in my opinion, the ending is actually quite ambiguous - elegantly so. And I quite appreciated the voice-over, both here, and throughout. I thought it was a clever way of cutting through what could easily have been tedious plot development and condensing it in a really apt way. Actually, re-reading the review now, I'm kind of blown away by how totally off it seems - the guy who wrote it just didn't get the movie at all. Interesting.

I'm curious (maybe for once someone will leave a comment...) how much of my own reaction to this movie is dependent on the stage of life I happen to be in. I can well imagine that in, say, 5 years, I'll look at it the way you look at things you loved when you were 15, but at the same time, what can I say, I think it's a quality flick. Julie Delpy as a director is still, at times, a bit amateurish, and seems like she's trying a little too hard to be artsy, but she also seems to be aware of it and poking fun at her own affectation for much of the film, which goes a long way towards making up for it. So I suspect that while I may, in coming years, look back on the worldview that the movie comes out of with a sense of indulgent nostalgia, I bet I'll still find the funny scenes hilarious.

*Ok, I need to bitch for a minute about Ira and Abby. It's made by the same people who did Kissing Jessica Stein, which is your first red flag. Much like that movie, it seems to basically be a film in which two people are put in a completely preposterous romantic situation and try to actually live it out. The only vaguely interesting thing about it is that it's this attempt to be overly cerebral about love and relationships - like in Kissing Jessica Stein, where the main character decides to try dating women because she's sick of men, as if it were actually that simple. What's really obnoxious about this is that it gets billed as a "modern romance" - as if this completely ridiculous approach somehow captured something authentic about this day and age. Give me a fucking break.


Anonymous said...

I just saw "2 Days in Paris" and am, at present, still somewhat unsure as to what I think of the closing scene. I'd like to see it again or at least read the monologue before making any sort of pronouncement. Any chance you remember the lines off by heart?

culture_vulture said...

Ha, no, no chance at all. I wouldn't mind reading a transcript of it myself, actually. As I recall, it was quite good. I'm curious what it is that you're on the fence about - care to elaborate?

Anonymous said...

Here it is...

"It always fascinated me how people go from loving you madly to nothing at all, nothing. It hurts so much. When I feel someone is going to leave me, I have a tendency to break up first before I get to hear the whole thing. Here it is. One more, one less. Another wasted love story. I really love this one. When I think that its over, that I'll never see him again like this... well yes, I'll bump into him, we'll meet our new boyfriend and girlfriend, act as if we had never been together, then we'll slowly think of each other less and less until we forget each other completely. Almost. Always the same for me. Break up, break down. Drunk up, fool around. Meet one guy, then another, fuck around. Forget the one and only. Then after a few months of total emptiness start again to look for true love, desperately look everywhere and after two years of loneliness meet a new love and swear it is the one, until that one is gone as well. There's a moment in life where you can't recover any more from another break-up. And even if this person bugs you sixty percent of the time, well you still can’t live without him. And even if he wakes you up every day by sneezing right in your face, well you love his sneezes more than anyone else's kisses."

Even after seeing it again on paper, I find myself still on the fence. Last night, discussing it with a beautiful girl who liked it, I found myself liking it as well. But today, in my solitude, I find myself going the other way. And I'm not entirely sure why.

A few random thoughts...it does come across like a vanity project, and you do feel as though there is a little more of Delpy in Marion than is usual. That said, these lines seem a bit arrogant, neglecting to take into Jack's point of view, and even relegating him to silence. She seems to forget that 2 people are involved in a relationship, and that is obviously what makes them so difficult at times.

Still, it is good to see a film looking at love and relationships from the other perspective: that you just don't ride off into the sunset hand-in-hand. I just feel that Lost in Translation and even the last vignette in Paris Je T'aime did a better job of this.

Apologies for my somewhat disjointed ideas; they are still in formation stage.

culture_vulture said...

Thanks for that!

Somehow it's easy to agree with beautiful women...

Reading over that monologue, the thing that strikes me is how awfully pessimistic it is. Basically, she's saying that after you get your heart broken enough, you inadvertently end up settling for someone who "bugs you sixty percent of the time" because you're just determined to make something stick. Jesus, I hope not. I mean, I've had my heart broken a time or two, and I'd like to think that I'm still unwilling to settle... In fact, I think I might be _less_ willing to settle than I used to be? But then again, sometimes I'm worry that I'm wrong.

As to the arrogance of it - well, the thing about break-ups is that you are being left alone. You don't get the other person's perspective anymore. That's part of what makes it so painful. It's somebody telling you to go figure it out on your own because they ain't gonna be around anymore. So I don't feel that it's unfair of her to not take his perspective into account. I mean, it's also worth noting that the film itself does, or has up to that point - it's only at the end that it comes back around so strongly to her perspective.

Anonymous said...

Point taken on the arrogance of it.

As to the pessimistic tone, I actually find myself somewhat amazed that anyone can be anything other than cynical in this world we live in. Look at the majority of relationships out there. How many even last longer than 10 years? And when they do, how many would admit when really questioned to still being in love?

I'm not sure it's realistic to expect to truly love someone your whole life. Sure, you get maybe 3 years, but by then things are getting old and dull, so couples go for kids cause they need something else to fill that void. And then couples just get comfortable with each other; they're not really feeling in love per se, but their initial love has become companionship, which is valuable in itself.

Maybe I'm just as cynical as Marion, or maybe I've just lost all the idealism of my youth. But, like her, I'm not interested in putting my heart on the line time after time; it's gotta be well worth it for me, whereas others seem to be better at it than me.

And yet, even the most cynical of us retain at least a little bit of hope...but just a little bit.