By Natalie Gadbois, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 22, 2012
No one plays disheveled and erratic as well as Julie Delpy (“Le Skylab”); her effortless charm, beauty and innumerable neuroses combine into something enchanting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Delpy’s most recent project, “2 Days in New York.”
2 Days in New York
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This eccentric sequel to the 2007 French gem “2 Days in Paris” chronicles two days in the life of Marion, played by Delpy (who also wrote, directed and starred in both movies). Her new boyfriend, Mingus (Chris Rock, “Death at a Funeral”) is thrown into culture shock after meeting her oversexed and politically incorrect French family. “New York,” however, lacks the quiet originality of its predecessor, and while the latest doesn't lack charm, it’s a rehash of the original with some unsatisfactory tweaks.
Marion finds herself residing in New York with Mingus, her son Lulu from a previous relationship with Jack, her neurotic "Paris" ex and Mingus’s daughter Willow (Talen Ruth Riley). They live a storybook cozy urban life, but their world is turned upside down when Marion’s narcissistic sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and her overly frank father Jeannot (Albert Delphy) visit from Paris, joined by Rose’s creepy boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon). These three quickly leave a path of destruction both through New York and Marion’s relationship — Jeannot is detained for trying to sneak 30 sausages through customs, Manu walks into the apartment and immediately tells Mingus that he loves “the blacks” while Rose attempts to convince Marion that Lulu is autistic — all within hours of their arrival.
Cultural and racial misunderstandings were similarly as present in the original, but in this film they degenerate into shrill arguments, with the language barrier causing farcical bantering rather than thought-provoking discussion. Despite the lack of interesting discourse, however, the actors deftly portray these stereotypical roles with humor and originality, making the endless silly fights more tolerable.
Delpy is again fantastic as the contradictory Marion — both selfish and kind, delusional and level-headed. Her relationship with Mingus seems a bit forced, in part because of the drastic contrasts between her very French family and Mingus’s very New York attitude. Rock tries valiantly to embody this character, but hits a caricature-esque portrayal when surrounded by other understated, organic characters. He plays Mingus well enough, but throughout the film you sense he’s “just acting.”
While the strength of the film lies in the superb character acting by Delpy and her French counterparts, its downfall is in the character interactions. The film is focused too much on in-fighting — between Marion and Rose, Marion and Mingus, Mingus and Manu ... the list continues. This detracts from the more conversational and intelligent discourse of "Paris."
In contrast, in some instances Delpy delves too far from situational cultural humor into broad existential musing. Marion attempts to “sell her soul” in her art exhibition, then proceeds to question the existence of a soul for much of the movie's second half. The result is too ambitious and broad, mostly because the best part of the original was that it was an analysis of a microcosm of human life instead of an overarching existential debate.
Delpy has created a funny and eccentric film, even if it lacks the substance and fluidity of the first. Throughout “2 Days In New York,” the dialogue is amusing and original, and the actors successfully portray the culture clash between slow-moving, unshaven Paris and clipped, millennial New York. Marion is a lovable mess-up; few other actors could play a hysterical woman yelling “He has my soul in his underwear!” with such humor and grace.