2 Days in New York: Delpy bites the Big Apple, and the Big Apple bites back

by Mark Burger

Delpy bites the Big Apple, and the Big Apple bites back

Turnabout is fair play, and with Woody Allen having temporarily forsaken his native New York for more exotic locales (London, Paris, Rome), it seems only fitting that a foreign filmmaker — in this case actress Julie Delpy — should celebrate the sights, sounds and neuroses of Gotham.

Although 2 Days in New York , which opens Friday, is a sequel to Delpy’s 2007 comedy 2 Days in Paris, the new film has no difficulty in standing as its own entity with its own identity. One needn’t have seen, or even known about, the earlier film to enjoy this one.

Although comfortably ensconced as an independent, 2 Days in New York is nothing if not high-concept, although it merrily upends expectations throughout — at least until a pat, feel-good ending that doesn’t diminish the laughter that has gone before.

Marion (Delpy) is an expatriate French artist living in New York City with Mingus (Chris Rock), a part-time disc jockey and sometime writer. They each have a child from a previous relationship, so theirs is a fairly full household — and it’s about to get even more full, with the arrival of Marion’s family, on their first visit to the United States. If that weren’t enough, Marion is preparing for an important exhibition of her work, one in which she has pledged to sell her soul (seriously).

Not only do Marion’s father Jeannot (Julie’s riotous real-life father Albert) and sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) deplane, but so does Manu (Alex Nahon), Rose’s cheerfully irresponsible boyfriend who once dated Marion and only stops talking about it when he’s trying to score marijuana, which he eventually does in Marion and Mingus’ apartment, right in front of the children.

Trying to keep a brave face and maintain control over the situation, Marion is facing a losing battle, and Mingus’ rapidly escalating disdain isn’t helping matters any. What was, and perhaps should, be an ostensibly fun reunion turns into a long disaster — one that includes frequent misunderstandings, a couple of blown tempers, and at least one deportation.

Unlike so many Hollywood comedies that employ the “ugly American” concept — in which boorish tourists wreak havoc wherever they travel to — 2 Days in New York turns it inside-out by having Marion’s guests blithely, unintentionally embarrass themselves and insult those around them. They may be infuriating, but they’re also amusing company. Delpy, Landeau and Nahon all receive writing credits, and it would hardly be a surprise if some of the conversations were improvised (in a good way).

There are some pointed digs at fractious family relations and the trendiness of the New York art scene (with Vincent Gallo contributing a hilarious late-inning cameo as himself), and the film hits some inspired comedic heights. Rock has occasionally seemed uncomfortable in ensemble situations (even in such lightweight fare as Death at a Funeral and Grown Ups), but here he’s playing uncomfortable in an ensemble situation and not only holding his own — against some fierce competition, particularly from Albert Delpy – and giving one of his best screen performances to date.

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