Julie Delpy's directorial debut 2 Days in Paris unavoidably invites comparisons to Before Sunset, as it too focuses on a talkative Franco-American couple as they navigate the ups and downs of their relationship during a brief stay in the titular metropolis. But despite the superficial similarities of both films, Delpy's romantic comedy (heavy on the comedy) is a far more prickly piece of chatty cinema, delivering acerbic wit and antagonistic conflict via the 48-hour visit to Paris by Marion (Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg), whose two-year-old coupling has been increasingly on the rocks since their preceding, miserable holiday in Venice. New York City residents, Jack and Marion are the embodiment of the cross-cultural disharmony that typifies the film's vision of the City of Lights, which Delpy—seemingly determined to shred the type of warm-and-fuzzy clichés about her hometown promoted by films like Paris, Je T'Aime—casts as a hotbed of social, political, and emotional tension. Digs at Da Vinci Code-loving Republican Yanks and xenophobic Gauls bring timely zing to Marion and Jack's problems, which soon center around Jack's unease with Marion's mother and father (Delpy's real-life parents Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy), frustration over language barriers, and paranoia regarding Marion's past lovers, whom they run into with alarming frequency. Jack's defense mechanism is endless sarcasm, an amusingly bitter attitude that Goldberg—who shares a natural chemistry with Delpy—is perfectly comfortable inhabiting. Harmoniously gliding and swaying to the rhythms of conversation, the camerawork meshes with the rapport of the character, and just as assured as Delpy's confident, relaxed writing and direction is her editing, which, save for some borderline-precious still-image montages, helps to amplify the action's tart edge. Though her narrative is stuffed with babble, Delpy is shrewd enough to eventually discern the make-or-break difference between substantive and deflective discourse. Meanwhile, her battle-of-the-sexes' fixation on castration—a motif located in everything from Jack's tiny, blood circulation-killing French condoms to a notorious picture involving his manhood and balloons—turns 2 Days in Paris into something of a male nightmare, and makes one wonder if Delpy isn't unconsciously working through some residual, latent anger at Before Sunset co-star Ethan Hawke.