2 Days in New York

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/18/12 07:55:52

"So Much For A Favorable Exchange Rate"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

I am an enormous fan of Julie Delpy--the French actress who has worked with directors ranging from Godard to Kieslowski and who is perhaps best known in these parts for her work in Richard Linklater's brilliant "Before Sunrise" and its equally impressive sequel "Before Sunset"--and whenever she turns up in a movie, the combination of her talent, beauty, intelligence and screen presence is usually enough to give a momentary jolt to the proceedings. Despite all that, however, her latest film, "2 Days in New York"--a follow-up to 2007's "2 Days in Paris" which she co-wrote, directed and stars in, is such an annoying mess that I am at a loss to explain how she, or anyone else involved with the proceedings, could have ever thought that any of it was a good idea.

As you may recall, the previous film featured Delpy as struggling artist Marion and chronicled a fairly disastrous visit to her family that she made with boyfriend Adam Goldberg during a layover on a long vacation. Picking up the story a few hours later, Goldberg is now out of the picture and Marion and her son are now living with journalist Mingus (Chris Rock) and his daughter and everything seems to be going fine. That peace is shattered with the arrival of Marion's recently widowed father (Albert Delpy, her real-life dad), her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau, who also co-wrote the script) and her sister's current boyfriend (not to mention one of Marion's numerous exes), super-weirdo Manu (Alex Nahon) to attend the opening of her first gallery show, an event that will display her enormous collection of photographic self-portraits and culminate with her literally selling her soul. Needless to say, chaos quickly ensues--Dad has a tendency to say or do the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time, Rose seems to be putting the moves on Mingus and Manu thinks nothing of inviting strange pot dealers into the apartment to do business--and it begins to threaten both Marion's sanity and her relationship with Mingus.

Although no one would ever mistake it for a masterpiece, "2 Days in Paris" was an entertaining enough film that did a nice job of balancing moments of frantic humor with nicely observed scenes that bore witness to a relationship beginning to fracture before our eyes with even the participants themselves fully recognizing what is happening between them. With "2 Days in New York," the balance has been thrown completely out of whack and the quiet nuance of the original has been replaced with the kind of strained and frantic farce that one ordinarily expects from a film with the word "Focker" in the title. The once-charming Marion is now a shrill and nearly unpleasant ninny who is often her own worst enemy--in one tiresome subplot, she tries to avoid a confrontation with an annoying neighbor by claiming that she has a brain tumor without realizing that the neighbor's husband (Dylan Baker) is a top-notch surgeon who wants to help her. Her visitors are all portrayed in the broadest terms imaginable and their behavior is so cluelessly over the top that it is difficult to see how they could have possibly pulled themselves together to make it to the airport in the first place, let alone gotten to New York without causing an international incident. (I take that back--Dad does cause trouble with customs when he is busted trying to smuggle what looks like an entire butcher shop in his luggage.) Most disappointingly, the on-screen relationship between Delpy and Rock is never convincing for a moment--based on their previous performances and their unique screen personalities, one might expect real sparks to occur between them but every time they have a scene together, it feels as if they only met for the first time a couple of minutes earlier at the craft service table.

For the most part, "2 Days in New York" is a borderline train wreck of a film in which a lot of real talent has been squandered on material that might not even pass muster as the B story on an episode of "Whitney." However, I must confess that there is one aspect of the film that I actually did enjoy and that is the stuff involving Marion attempting to sell her soul. For the most part, this is just one more lame running joke--one that rings especially hollow considering the film's own artistic failings--but it is one that immediately shifts from lame to inspired when we discover the identity of the mysterious individual who made the purchase. On the chance that common sense leaves you and you do indeed decide to see the film, I wouldn't dream of revealing the purchaser's identity except to note that when you discover who it is, you will agree that this is the one area of the film in which Delpy made the perfect choice. Here's hoping that if she decides to do another film along these lines, she decides to expand upon this bit and transforms the material into a hipster version of the MST3K favorite "Soultaker." I know that I would take just the vague promise of that over the dismal reality of "2 Days in New York" in a New York minute

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