It’s interesting to watch a movie that’s set in 2007 – social media was just starting to become a thing, but it doesn’t yet feature in the films. My wife and I watched it together in October 2016 on a Saturday night while eating pizza in our living room. I suggested it because I was tired of the generally difficult and stressful shit we have been watching, and thought it might be nice to watch something maybe-romantic. (We last watched Southside With You, which was pleasant).
I was curious about it because it was written, produced and directed by Julie Delpy, who was the female lead in the Before Sunrise trilogy (Before Midnight review here). I was curious to see what her personal style was, and how much of it she must’ve brought to the table. Now I’m curious to see something directed by Ethan Hawke, if he’s done anything like that.
I didn’t know Adam Goldberg before this film – or if I did, I’ve never recognized him. I watched the film without a lot of expectations – I imagined it would be some sort of similar-but-different take on Before Sunrise.
Okay… in summary… I appreciated the film, but I didn’t really like it. I liked the treatment it got, but I didn’t really like the characters. I thought the characters were a little boring, stale, childish, immature – all of them. 35 year old adults behaving childishly. I don’t know a lot about France or French culture, but it seemed like Julie Delpy was either satirizing it for her personal reasons, or delivering stereotypes for some other reason I can’t tell. Do Parisians really talk about sex all the time, with people they’ve just met? Seems improbable.
I couldn’t really respect Marion (Julie) as a character, and thought it was odd or surprising that she would choose to write her own character in such a flawed, weak, irrational way. Was it an exaggerated version of her own weaknesses? Or an entirely fictional character altogether?
I found Adam Goldberg’s character (Jack) annoying too, with his snooty intellectualism and his constant sicknesses. But Julie is probably the worse of the two – irresponsible, impulsive, and prone to having loud arguments with people. Jack’s not exactly fun to be around either. The most likeable character in the show was probably Jean-Luc, the cat.
The interesting questions at the heart of the show are – what are the boundaries of a relationship? What is cheating and what is not? Are small lies okay? How much deception is okay in a relationship? What sort of relationship should an individual have with their exes, and how do you relate that to your current partner? The movie does a good job of bringing these questions up, but it doesn’t really bother trying to explore them in interesting ways – they’re just points of conflict, and they aren’t dealt with.
Some of the digressions seemed pointless – a bunch of oddball taxi drivers, Jack meeting a weirdo at a fast food place, running and being mistaken for a thief, some of the interactions between the friends at Marion’s friends, Marion meeting her ex again… all of that, I thought, should’ve been left out to focus on exploring the questions I mentioned earlier.
The film resolves with the characters supposedly having a 4-hour long discussion about being honest with one another about their needs and fears, and Julie narrating over it. It felt a little rushed and a little too tidy – I would have preferred that scene to be opened up more and properly dug into.
I did appreciate seeing a slightly different sort of film, seeing a French family, the arguments, the dynamics, the Parisian setting. But those are all things I can get elsewhere. Ultimately the movie left me feeling a little unfulfilled. I would still consider watching the sequel, because I like Julie anyway and I want to see how she followed up on this one.
Wouldn’t recommend this film, though. Sorry Julie. I can respect that your treatment of modern love is probably different from all the cliche romance-in-Paris films that I haven’t watched, but a film about romantic difficulties should have us rooting for the characters as they fail. Watching Marion and Jack break up had me think “Phew, well, about time. Damn kids. You’re in your goddamn mid-30s. Grow the fuck up, ya’ll.”
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