L’amour fou, in the Big Apple
By Jess Righthand
Friday, August 17, 2012
Beginning with the steamy 1995 “Before Sunrise” with Ethan Hawke, French actress Julie Delpy has specialized in making movies about ill-fated romances.
Delpy starred as New York-based French photographer Marion in the 2007 “2 Days in Paris,” in which she takes boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg) on a disastrous sojourn to France to meet her family.
Take “2 Days in Paris,” swap Goldberg for Chris Rock, corral the whole clan in New York instead of Paris and you’ve essentially got the formula for “2 Days in New York,” a manic and funny, if ultimately frustrating, sequel.
“2 Days in New York” brings Marion’s family to Manhattan, where she lives with her new boyfriend, talk show host Mingus (Chris Rock), Mingus’s daughter and Marion’s son from her relationship with Jack of the previous film.
When Marion’s mother passes away, her boisterous father (played by Delpy’s real-life father, Albert Delpy), borderline-nymphomaniacal sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and flagrantly racist former-flame-turned-sister’s-boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon) decide to pay Marion a visit on the occasion of her upcoming art show. (For the show, we learn, Marion is about to pull a conceptual stunt by selling her soul to the highest bidder.)
The family invades Marion and Mingus’s snug apartment with a vengeance, swiftly pushing Marion -- and the straight-laced Mingus -- to the outer limits of their own sanity.
While “2 Days in Paris” trafficked in a more brooding, self-consciously intellectual brand of comedy, “2 Days in New York” considerably ups the screwball ante. This may be due in part to the fact that Delpy co-wrote the script with Landeau rather than writing the whole thing herself as she did in “2 Days in Paris,” but it also is largely situational. The comedy results mainly from the misbehavior of Marion’s family rather than any sort of deep-seated angst between Marion and Mingus.
At times, the plot follows a Dick-and-Jane progression: See the family go to Marion’s yoga class! See the family go to the park!
Moreover, the family members are fairly one-dimensional, a garish, hedonistic set that are almost a parody of themselves. This, in turn, makes it difficult for Mingus to provide a foil as interesting as, say, Jack in “2 Days in Paris,” which was a performance rife with cultural discomfort and Woody Allen-esque relationship tension. As Marion’s family takes its toll, Marion too starts acting out in interesting ways that cause trouble in her relationship with Mingus. But with few opportunities to showcase his own comedic brilliance, Rock is reduced to the role of naysayer.
The slapstickery isn’t all bad. There are several rather bright, entertaining moments that punctuate the movie, mostly involving nudity, drug use, a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama and the unfortunate misuse of a vibrating toothbrush. Marion is just as magnetic as before, and watching her come apart at the seams is one of the chief joys of the film. If only the downward spiral of her mental state weren’t cheapened by a final sexist twist, her performance would not be quite so in vain.
As a rollicking tour through New York with a nightmarish French family, “2 Days in New York” supplies enough laughs to make it pleasantly diverting for a couple of hours. But the film never attains the level of sophistication of its predecessor. If that was never the goal, perhaps it should have been.
Contains nudity, sexual references, illicit drug use and profanity.