Not invoking the memory of Before Sunset when writing about 2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy, France, 2007) seems to be an impossibility–just try and find a review that doesn’t–and I have no intention of doing so myself, as my thoughts on this film are intimately tied up with that one. In her feature film debut, Delpy seems bent on magnifying the nervous tics that constantly threaten to burst through the serene surface of Linklater’s graceful film, and finally, by giving herself over fully to her obsession with character neuroses she comes up with something that’s quite simply manic. It’s a risky move alright, but in the end it pays off—for when all is said and done Delpy manages to step out of Linklater & Co’s seemingly insurmountable shadow and demonstrates that artistically she’s fully capable of standing on her own (it also makes it obvious that there is unmistakably a lot of Delpy in the Before Sunrise/Sunset films, which gives weight to Delpy’s claim in The Telegraph that she and co-star Ethan Hawke are the actual authors behind the screenplay of Before Sunrise).
From the first Delpy sets her film at an incredibly high pitch, and one that threatens to quickly become rather unbearably shrill. But as it turns out, she is not working on an unknown frequency at all: those familiar with the all-too-brief flowering of screwball comedy in the 30’s and early 40’s will have little problem adjusting to this very mannered, very literate style of verbal and physical slapstick. As is the case for even the best examples of screwball comedies, not all of gags take flight, and indeed, 2 Days in Paris has a large number that fall utterly flat (immediately jumping to mind is the allergic reaction at the party, the parent’s raunchy humor around the dinner table, and most particularly the entire fast-food scene near the end of the film). But moment to moment the film is extremely funny, and if Delpy and Adam Goldberg are in no way Hepburn and Grant or Dunne and Grant (or any other immortal screwball pairing of your choice), they carry off their prickly relationship with a certain aplomb.
For indeed it is in the “off-moments”—in little fragments of conversation and verbal sparring, in the little movements and mannerisms that gage the comfort level of a romantic relationship—that Delpy’s talents both in front of and behind the camera shine most brightly. An admittedly flawed but undeniably formidable achievement from a renaissance woman (Delpy not only directed and stars, but also produced, edited, composed the score and sings the closing song) who seem to be finally getting her due.