2 Days in New York Review

(1.5 STARS)

Actress Julie Delpy shot to art-house stardom after playing Celine in Richard Linklater’s sublime Euro-romance Before Sunrise. She reprised the role in the director’s somewhat unexpected follow-up, Before Sunset, almost a decade later.

Since then, Delpy has been largely absent from the big screen minus one big exception—a 2007 film 2 Days in Paris, which Delpy starred in, wrote, and directed. The film drummed up little money, but its tone was quite unique. Its blend of Before Sunrise‘s emotional earnestness and Woody Allen-esque broad comedy was a breath of fresh air five years ago. And like Linklater did with his 1995 film, she clearly thought there was still oil in these fields. Unfortunately, 2 Days in New York proves the well was bone-dry.

The film, like 2 Days in Paris, follows Delpy’s Marion Dupres, but a lot has changed in her life since we last saw her. Using puppets (the first clue of what’s to come), Marion tells us she and her boyfriend of the first film, Adam Goldberg’s Jack, had a child together but split up shortly afterward. He’s still in her life, but her new partner is Mingus (Chris Rock), a popular New York-based talk radio host with a child of his own from a previous marriage. Also, Marion’s mother has passed away, leaving her father (Delpy’s real-life father, Albert) completely shaken.

Marion, an inexplicably successful photographer despite her obvious lack of talent (other characters’ words), decides to fly Papa Dupres to New York for a visit. Sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) also makes the trip, as does her boyfriend (and Marion’s ex), Manu (Alex Nahon). It’s a regular motley crue, and their constant bickering and appaling behavior threaten to disrupt Mingus and Marion’s carefully crafted life together.

Though Delpy’s two films follow similar narrative paths, the contributing factors to the central conflicts are quite different. In 2 Days in Paris, Marion and Jack are at a crossroads even before they embark on a “romantic” tour of Europe. Their troubles quickly become exacerbated by their cultural differences and Marion’s overbearing family. In 2 Days in New York, Marion and Mingus are quite compatible and have no obvious cracks in their relationship. The conflict, then, must be derived solely from Marion’s visiting relatives, who, in the years since we last saw them, must have been abducted by aliens and injected with something that’s made them insane. The behavior of her father, sister, and Manu is so absurd and over-written that the resulting conflict feels contrived and superficial.

That might be forgivable if the comedy was side-splittingly funny, but jokes are hit-and-miss. Some of 2 Days in New York is funny, including just about everything Chris Rock (who’s playing a very low-key version of his usual character) does. A lot of it, though, is either crazy over-the-top (like Marion’s father wearing a feather on his head) or goes nowhere (like Marion’s father keying a limousine) .

Delpy’s Marion wasn’t the sweetest, most likable heroine the first time we saw her, but she was nowhere near as harpy then as she is now. The film’s final act tries to clumsily explain that, but it’s a reveal you see coming a mile away thanks to a screenplay that’s about as subtle as a blunt axe. She’s always shouting at someone (usually Rose) and is so indescribably selfish that it’s almost impossible to believe she’s a real person.

Ditto Manu, who walks into Mingus’ life wearing a T-shirt that says “Obama Homeboy”. He’s brazenly racist and not at all afraid to overstep his boundaries, whether it be crashing this family reunion or inviting a drug dealer into Mingus and Marion’s apartment. In fact, no one in this film comes across as an authentic character with any real depth outside of Mingus. Rock’s performance is easily the best thing about 2 Days in New York. The second-best and maybe the only other worthwhile thing? A pretty hilarious Vincent Gallo cameo.

The film ends with real closure, which hopefully means this is the end for Marion Dupres’ big-screen adventures. If it’s not, I certainly won’t be watching. Delpy has talent, so I really don’t know what she was thinking here, but 2 Days in New York is a train wreck and pretty damn close to unwatchable.

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