2 Days in New York

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 05/23/12 09:23:48

"Not Paris, but good for a quick visit."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Sequels to independent films that didn't really break out are kind of odd things; the audience is as much those who heard the first movie was pretty good as the people who loved it, so even more than with studio productions, they've got to be accessible and familiar, though without actually repeating anything. "2 Days in New York" manages this pretty well; it amuses whether you've taken the previous trip to Paris or not.

When we last saw Marion (Julie Delpy), she and her boyfriend Jack were visiting her family in Paris. Now they have a son but are no longer together; Marion and Lulu (Owen Shipman) instead share an apartment in New York City with new boyfriend Mingu (Chris Rock) and his daughter Willow (Talen Riley). Marion is having her first gallery show of her photography tomorrow (where, as a conceptual piece, she will auction off her soul), and has invited her father Jeannot (Julie's own father Albert Delpy) and sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) - who brings a boyfriend, Manu (Alex Nahon), who had been with Marion years ago.

While both 2 Days movies are rooted in the same thing - the hidden tensions between Marion and her boyfriend being brought to the surface and exacerbated by her crazy, crude family, at first glance New York seemed a bit less clever and subversive than Paris, which gleefully demolished the romantic mystique of Paris one horribly racist cab driver at a time - an ambition this movie seemingly does not share. Then it dawned on me that I'm an American, and thus wasn't looking at things from Rose's and Manu's point of view, which has them discovering that New York, Americans in general, and black Americans in particular, are not exactly the anarchic rebels they had imagined. It's not quite the same - Rose & Manu are such broadly-sketched characters that I somewhat doubt that French audiences saw them as surrogates (though, to be fair, Adam Goldberg's Jack was pretty weird, too).

Still, even if that angle isn't as immediately obvious as it was before, Delpy's wicked sense of humor is still there. She packs a lot of gags into the movie, with little worry that they be particularly sophisticated or clever. At times, it seems like she figures the cruder the better; there's not much sophistication in an extremely loud doorbell, but piling one bit of chaos on top another creates even more. They don't all work, and in fact at times Delpy and company are almost cavalier with things - at one point having a character disappear when they've run out of ideas for him. One thing they do manage that's pretty impressive is letting the madness move through the cast, with Marion and eventually Mingus moving from reaction to instigation as the movie goes on.

Yes, "eventually Mingus"; the member of the cast best-known for being a comedian is the straight man for much of the movie. It's actually a part that fits Rock well; as much as he gets chances to be exasperated, playing the guy who is awkwardly trying to be accommodating requires invisibly good comic timing. Rock is also able to make Mingus a fairly idealized young dad (smart, firm, sensible, funny) without seeming too good to be true or losing himself in the character's own insecurities and quirkiness.

Delpy-the-actress does the same, only more so. Marion's not initially as crazy as her family, though the same anarchic tendencies are there from the start, but Delpy keeps the insecurities close to the surface even as she's trying to be sensible. She's quite funny as every bit of mounting stress has her doing nuttier things, though she always finds the midway point between Rock and the rest of the cast (including a perfect cameo in the last act). Perhaps the most impressive thing she does, as both an actress and a filmmaker, and, heck, as herself, is to let the loss of Marion's mother (who had been played in Paris by Delpy's real-life mother Marie Pillet) assume its proper importance by the end without ever really bringing it up.

That's a little weight added to the wackiness, but don't worry - Delpy finds a gross-out joke in it soon enough. "2 Days in New York" isn't quite the same mix of absurdity and impending doom as "Paris", but it's close enough that fans of one should find the other worthwhile, even if they see this one first.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.