Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Julie Delpy
Starring: Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Albert Delpy, Marie Pillet
(R, 94 min.)
"Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee
If you delight in the casual cruelties of a dysfunctional relationship or cannot wait to peep under the veneer of Parisian sophistication or the chic Manhattan version thereof, then you will probably relish this modern comedy of manners that manages to be an equal opportunity offender in skewering both French and American mores.
French born Marion (Julie Delpy) and her New York designer boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg) hope to end their less than exquisite European vacation with a quiet two day visit with her parents in Paris.
But this Paris interlude is not the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower, the light laughter of the café, nor the starry evening sky above the city of love. It is a cramped apartment stacked atop that of Marion’s well meaning but outrageous parents, chance encounters with old beaus whose discretion is certainly not the better part of valor, and a continuous gastronomical assault on Jack, who has still not recovered from some bad Parmesan cheese in Italy.
Perhaps with the graying of the sixties generation the now clichéd humor of parents playing the role of offensive adolescents rings true, but it isn’t nearly as fresh as when Alex P. Keaton first rolled his eyes at his hopelessly progressive ones on TV’s Family Ties. Marion’s mother Anna (Marie Pillet, Delpy’s real life mother) seems a domesticated little cherub, overfeeding the cat left in her care, bursting in unannounced to gather up the laundry, which she returns folded and ironed, but her past liaison with one American icon sheds the light on an entirely new facet of the sweet little lady.
Jeannot, also played by Delpy’s real life father Albert, is a plump scamp, whose taste in art and food leaves Jack reeling. A trip to the market has him marveling over a suckling pig “just yesterday plucked from his mother’s milk,” as the vendor gushes to explain just before cleaving the carcass in two. At Jeannot’s art gallery Jack also sees some portrayals of porcine endeavors on the more lascivious side as well as various other erotic episodes caught on canvas, if erotic and not just plain obscene is the correct word.
Delpy spares neither Marion nor Jack in her “warts and all” presentation. For instance, Jack is perfectly comfortable in giving a group of Americans bogus directions to the Louvre, righteously citing their Republican T-shirts as motive enough to misrepresent, but ultimately clearing the queue for the taxi is what he has in mind. Marion rants and raves at racism and sexism to the point of getting them kicked out of a cab and a café, but she doesn’t bat an eye at her easy lies to Jack when he wonders about her past relationships.
Part of the humor also stems from the reversal of roles, with Jack being the somewhat passive and relative innocent, while Marion engages in the types of behavior we usually expect from the guy. She is the one camouflaging her checkered sexual past. It is Marion who takes compromising and intimate photos of Jack and then posts them to her folks without any qualms, passing off a similar photo Jack finds – this one involving a past beau -- as nothing much, while he whines about headaches and being treated as a sex object. While some may delight in this “feminist perspective,” I cannot help but wonder if this is what you call progress?
According to the classic definition, tragedy ends in death, comedy in marriage. The old comedies put our young lovers through tests and trials, real and self-created pain, but ended in a burst of joy, hope and love that justified all the trouble. In this postmodern version, the most we garner is a niggling reassertion of a noncommittal commitment, a teary eyed acceptance to continue the struggle.
Life, at least at the movies, should hold much more.
Delicious as it may be, the delightful rabbit stew Marion’s father cooks up only reminds Jack of his former little bunny. If you are not fettered by any past bunny memories, you might love this French Rabbit Stew.
But for Jack’s sake, I’ve come up with a dinner more suiting his sensitive palate, and I’ve even renamed it in his honor, of course, giving his name a little French flair.
This is a sure fire dish every time, easy to cook and showy enough for company. But don’t tell any French friends about the canned cream of mushroom soup, especially if you use Campbell’s. That’s our little secret, oui?
Jacque’s Parisian Chicken
- 3-ounces fresh black truffles, wiped clean, and thinly sliced
- Portobello or other mushrooms of your choice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon mined garlic
- 4 to 6 medium chicken breasts
- 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup dairy sour cream
- 1/2 cup Madeira or dry sherry
Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, in an 11x 7 x 11/2 inch baking dish.
Sauté the truffle or mushroom slices in the olive oil with the minced garlic until tender.
Combine with the other ingredients and pour over the chicken. Sprinkle generously with paprika.
Bake at 350 about 1 to 1 1/4 hours or till tender. Serve with hot fluffy rice.
Recipe Source: Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook