2 Days in New York

2 Days in New YorkSynopsis: Hip talk-radio host and journalist Mingus (Chris Rock) and his French photographer girlfriend, Marion (Julie Delpy), live cozily in a New York apartment with their cat and two young children from previous relationships. But when Marion’s jolly father, her oversexed sister, and her sister’s outrageous boyfriend unceremoniously descend upon them for an overseas visit, it initiates two unforgettable days of family mayhem.
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2 Days in New York 8.0

eyelights: Chris Rock. Albert Delpy.
eyesores: Marion’s irrational outbursts.

‘2 Days in New York’ is Julie Delpy’s follow-up to her delightful romantic comedy ‘2 Days in Paris‘. Set a few years later, Marion is back in New York, but has since separated from Jack and lives with Mingus along with her son and his daughter. Everything is peachy-keen: they both have thriving careers, are living the good life in a beautiful apartment and have a harmonious family dynamic.

Then her family decides to come down from Paris for a visit and everything starts to unravel!

From that point onward, Marion and Mingus are faced with all sorts of unexpected but real-world issues, such as inappropriate conversation, racism, social awkwardness, uncouth guests, and even inadvertent law-breaking. It may not seem like much, but it’s enough to put a strain on the couple as Marion tries to manage her dysfunctional family and Mingus attempts to remain calm and collected.

There are two key reasons why I prefer this film to the original: 1) it has a more traditional narrative form – it’s not just 90 minutes of bumping into offbeat characters one after the next; 2) the relationship between Marion and her beau is much more loving and healthy this time around – it makes a lot more sense that Mingus and Marion are together than she and Jack were (i.e. it’s hardly surprising that they’ve split up since the first film).

I wish I had some dialogue to quote, but I can’t find any anywhere online; the only thing I could do in this situation is re-watch the whole movie and write some of the bits down (um… not gonna happen!). The thing is that the film hinges on the characters’ interactions, as they’re stuck together for two days – and much of the humour is rooted in the dialogues, in their contrasting positions, obtuse remarks, droll reactions, …etc.

But it’s also in what they do, such as when Marion’s sister walks around the house half-dressed, making Mingus extremely uncomfortable, or when her boyfriend decides to score some pot and brings the dealer to Marion and Mingus’ apartment to seal the deal, when Marion’s father decides to have some fun at Mingus’ expense, or even when Mingus’ adorably morbid daughter decides to dress up as an undead – and her new stepbrother.

The cast is stellar. Chris Rock probably delivers his finest performance ever as Mingus, a down-to-earth, intelligent and personable radio show host, Julie Delpy plays her neurotic alter-ego exceptionally well (even if I find her slightly whiny and annoying), Alexia Landeau is genuine as Rose, Marion’s cute but irresponsible sister, Alexandre Nahon is suitably grating as Rose’s dunce of a boyfriend, and Albert Delpy (Julie’s actual father) is hilarious as the earthy and goofy father. Heck, even the kids are terrific.

The one thing that prevents ‘2 Days in New York’ from truly soaring above its predecessor is Marion’s whole art show sequence and her frequently irrational behaviour – which the writers may have intended to be humourous, but which I often found frustrating; I just wanted her to stop freaking out and acting like a spazz. As for the art show sequence, I liked the idea that she was going to have a vernissage and that things didn’t go as planned, but it unfolded in a choppy fashion.

I think that the key issue for me was that Marion also attempted to get gimmicky to grab attention, to cause a sensation: she offered up her soul for sale as well as her art. It’s somewhat silly, but the notion of selling one’s soul (complete with a certificate of ownership) is also an intriguing one: Can a person sell their soul? Would one want to? What are the repercussions of doing this? What if the buyer misuses it? What if the seller wants to get it back… and can’t? It’s such a peculiar and amusing premise!

Personally, I loved the abstractness of it, the ethical and metaphysical sides of the equation, but Marion’s increasingly nutty behaviour totally ruined it for me. She was intent on provoking people and on making a statement by “selling” her soul, but she had all these conditions attached to the sale. She also reacted wildly when it came down to it and even had a confrontation with a buyer – one that didn’t really resolve itself adequately (it was so difficult to wrap it up that they did much of it off-screen). It was a decent idea that didn’t maximize its potential; it felt sketchy.

Otherwise, though, ‘2 Days in New York’ is a lovely film about coupledom for people who tend to be more pragmatic than dreamers. Although Delpy sometimes overdoes it by injecting Marion’s pseudo-philosophical musings into the mix, she offers her audience a sober -not sobering- look at the struggles of any relationship – even the healthiest ones.

‘2 Days in New York’ is not a lovey-dovey wish-fulfillment fantasy, nor does it take a saccharine approach; it’s generally well-crafted and it offers up an intelligent yet humourous account of relationships in the modern age. I dearly hope that Delpy will someday allow us to spend another ‘2 Days’ with her (and her offbeat family, of course!).

Date of Viewing: February 1, 2013

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