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A 'Paris' only Woody would love

Writer and director Julie Delpy and her real-life ex, Adam Goldberg, star as an arguing couple in '2 Days in Paris.' Writer and director Julie Delpy and her real-life ex, Adam Goldberg, star as an arguing couple in "2 Days in Paris." (Samuel Goldwyn Films and Red Envelope Entertainment)

Here's all you really need to know in order to determine whether Julie Delpy's "2 Days in Paris" is something you need to experience for yourself: Her blond hair is often all frizz, and she prefers glasses with a big black frame. She's Mia and Woody.

As homage, it's sweet and discreet and only occasionally annoying. Delpy wrote, directed, edited, and produced this movie. She cast her mother and father to play her mother and father, and wrote and performed a few of the soundtrack's extremely catchy songs. With just about anybody else, this all would seem obsessive and purely vain. But "2 Days in Paris" feels like the sort of critical self-portrait Allen sometimes offers. And for extra masochism, Delpy cast her ex, the hipster motormouthed actor Adam Goldberg, to be her movie boyfriend.

Here she's Marion, a French photographer who's been traveling Europe with her boyfriend of two years, Goldberg's Jack, a ruthlessly sardonic, handsomely tattooed American who has no apparent knowledge of her life before him. The trip's last leg is a couple of days in her native Paris. They sleep in an apartment she keeps upstairs from her high-strung parents (they cat-sat for her) and run into her exes on the street and at a party. Marion has made light of her old loves; when she tells Jack she faked her first orgasm with one of them, it only makes things comically worse. Maybe she's been faking it with Jack, too.

A lot of the movie is actually like a long, raw version of the trips in "Annie Hall," in which Annie and Alvy go back in time and look at living snapshots from Annie's old relationships. Alternatively, "2 Days in Paris" feels like an adolescently frantic variation on the blissful romance in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," which also starred Delpy. If they stayed together, would Ethan Hawke have wondered if his girlfriend were a whore? It's a little uncomfortable listening to Goldberg make the accusation since the charge has actually sprung from Delpy's imagination -- or maybe her impression of the actual relationship.

The movie muses on the idea that men can't stand knowing about their love's old lovers. But Marion is such a confused character: Despite her incessant talking, we never really know what she thinks. Both Marion and Jack say a lot, but the interplay has a bitter edge that only at the end seems to sting. Even when they tell each other and us why they love each other, you're not convinced.

Whenever Goldberg gets to play somebody's boyfriend, as he has on a few TV series and in some independent comedies, you wonder what kind of woman can tolerate the barrage of withering asides. He's just as emotionally impenetrable here, though Delpy does wear down his comic defenses. Marion's old relationships actually seem to hurt and mystify Jack as much as the cultural and language barriers exasperate him.

There's a funny, odd encounter between Marion, Jack, and an ex in a cafe that escalates into violence. It's disturbing, but in a way that makes breaking up seem more fun in France. By this point, Marion has come unglued, and it's funny watching her switch between keyed up and calm. Delpy isn't out to make a vanity project. If Marion seems kind of crazy, that's OK. But maybe that's a vanity in itself. "It's not easy being in a relationship," she surmises. Needless to say her movie is rigged. All she gives us are the hard parts.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to boston.com/ ae/movies/blog.

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2 Days in Paris

Written and directed by: Julie Delpy

Starring: Delpy and Adam Goldberg

At: Kendall Square, Embassy

Running time: 96 minutes

Rated: R (sexual content, some nudity and language)

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