Actress-turned-filmmaker Julie Delpy's new film, 2 Days in New York, is a sequel of sorts to her prior 2 Days in Paris, but you don't need to have seen that 2007 film to enjoy this modest little culture-clash comedy.
In 2 Days in Paris, Delpy is Marion, a young French woman returning home to visit her parents (played, in the film, by Delpy's real-life parents, Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet), with obnoxious American boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg) in tow.
Five years later, 2 Days in New York finds Marion in a healthier romantic situation, cohabitating in a nice but realistic Manhattan apartment with Mingus, a Village Voice writer and radio host played by Chris Rock. Marion is now separated from Jack and is a single mother to a toddler son. The twice-divorced Mingus has a slightly older daughter who splits time between her two parents. It's a happy, modern, complicated family. But this cozy domesticity is disrupted by a visit from Marion's across-the-pond relatives — eccentric, mischievous father Jeannot (Albert Delpy), promiscuous sister Rose (Alexia Landeau), and, unexpectedly, one of Marion's ex-boyfriends who had plagued Jack in the earlier film, Manu (Alex Nahon), who is now dating Rose. (Landeau and Nahon wrote the script with Delpy.) Marion's mother — and Delpy's — has passed in the years between the two films, a fact that is acknowledged and which informs much of the film but isn't dwelled on.
2 Days in New York is a brainy, mildly farcical relationship comedy in the Woody Allen mold but more modern. It's also reminiscent of Delpy's great series work with director Richard Linklater and co-star Ethan Hawke on Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and the upcoming Before Midnight, a reminder that she's a true collaborator in those works instead of merely a star.
2 Days in New York is good fun as a culture-clash comedy, with Rock as American straight-man reacting to the overwhelming Frenchness of his new houseguests, particularly the unwelcome but very enthusiastic Manu, who makes his maiden American voyage wearing an "Obama is my Homeboy" T-shirt and proceeds to such uncomprehending bad behavior as calling a pot dealer to Marion and Mingus' apartment during a family dinner and doing unspeakable things with Mingus' electric toothbrush. The visit is disruptive enough that you can sense the assimilated Marion thinking her family may be a little too French for her too.
The film gets in trouble when it searches for plot lines outside of this basic set-up. A sitcom-level bit in which Marion tells a convenient lie to a neighbor that brings about unintended consequences is painful, while a subplot about photographer Marion's adventures in the Manhattan art world feels labored, though it does pay off with a funny cameo appearance from an indie-film icon of sorts.
On the whole, 2 Days in New York isn't quite as engaging as its performers and characters, but these are still people it's fun to hang out with for a couple of hours.
2 Days in New York
Opening Friday, October 26th