We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
Julie Delpy's second feature as director is a risqué post-romantic comedy set in the City of Love
In 2004, acclaimed actress Julie Delpy was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing Richard Linklater's wonderful Before Sunset, in which she also starred. In the meantime, Delpy had been pitching a script on the life of Countess Bathory, another on the experiences of Japanese soldiers during World War 2, and a third satirising the media's relationship to war. Yet the only project for which she was able to secure funding was, quelle surprise, a film that closely mirrored her previous success.
Like Before Sunset, 2 Days In Paris sees Delpy wandering the streets of Paris with an American and bantering about life, love, politics and the passing years. This time it is a more comic affair, and as well as penning the script and taking one of the lead roles, Delpy directs, edits and performs her self-penned soundtrack.
Two years into their relationship, French photographer Marion (Delpy) and American interior designer Jack (Goldberg) decide to revitalise their love life with a holiday in Venice - but after Jack is struck down with gastroenteritis there, the couple's last hope for some romantic rest and recreation is a weekend in Paris on their way back to New York.
Neurotic Jack is made uncomfortable by everything in the City of Love: the linguistic gulf, Marion's bohemian family, the mould in the bathroom, the natives' obsession with eating cute animals, the spatial proximity of train commuters, the (supposed) risk of terrorism, the size of the condoms, people's disarming openness about sexual matters, even the service in a local McDonalds - and, more than anything else, the realisation that his girlfriend has an erotic history with almost every male they meet. Can Marion and Jack's relationship survive this onslaught of anxiety, or is the honeymoon long over between these two not-so-young lovers and their different cultures?
"Taking pictures all the time turns you into an observer. It takes you out of the moment." So says Marion in voiceover, as she recalls Jack's romance-killing obsession with photographing every moment of their Venetian holiday. It is a pity that Delpy herself seems not to have learnt this lesson, for her obsessive use of rapid photomontages, superimposed diagrams and games of hangman, and voiceover, while all very cute, doesn't so much enhance as distract from the film's central drama, repeatedly taking viewers out of the moment and impeding any real engagement with the characters. By the end, the journey on which we have been taken seems too superficial to accommodate the film's late shift in tone from light French farce to a more sober reflection on love, aging and loneliness.
While 2 Days In Paris has many virtues, economy is hardly one of them. Even the presence of Daniel Brühl (Good Bye Lenin!), placed third in the film's billing, seems designed more to placate the film's German financial backers than to serve its narrative rhythms.
Brühl's animal rights activist and "fairy" Lukas, however charmingly portrayed, is really just an eccentric cameo, and the amatory advice that he offers Jack is as cliched as it is unnecessary. Similarly the liberal postures adopted by Marion - arguing with a racist cabbie or attacking a monstrously hypocritical ex-boyfriend - may be admirable enough in themselves, but do not really do much for the overall film apart from advertise the politics of its writer-director.
Fortunately, Delpy's breezy dialogue and finely attuned sense of the absurd ensure that 2 Days In Paris is never anything less than amiable. The performances are all spot-on, there are hilarious digs at Franco-American attitudes in the post-9/11 climate, and Delpy has the generosity to let her Woody Allen-like co-star have the funniest lines - of which there are many.
Fresh, fast, funny, Two Days in Paris is certainly an entertaining stop-over - if not always an economic one.
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