2 Days in New York ****
Julie Delpy is proving as accomplished in her writing-directing as she is in her acting, bringing a cross-cultural humour that resonates with international audiences while defiantly drawing laughs from stereotypical situations. Hers is a rudimentary form of wit, the un-PC kind that still revels in pointing out our apparent differences that result in miscommunication and ultimately comic farce.
Following on from the 2007 romantic comedy, 2 Days In Paris, a kind of wordy, intellectual dissection of a cross-cultural relationship between Marion (Delpy) and American boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg), her latest sequel, 2 Days In New York, sees her free-spirited photographer character back home in New York and living with new partner, talk-radio host Mingus (Chris Rock) in near idyllic bliss. Enter the arrival of the visiting family from France, an uninhibited bunch – jolly father (Delpy’s real-life father, Albert Delpy), oversexed sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and outrageous on-off, pot-smoking boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon) – who put the ‘ex’ in exhibition and test the couple’s relationship to the full.
Delpy’s style is an engaging Cinéma vérité one, allowing seemingly tense, real-life family scenarios to escalate to the point of combustion, rather than set pieces designed to coax laughter at various cues. The myriad of possibilities of what any of the characters could do next is what keeps this eccentric comedy fresh and equally volatile. In addition, Rock tones down his wise-cracking for a more subdued if bemused delivery, and is quite the tonic in this, managing to come across as the more level-headed of the bunch opposite his Gaulois counterparts. In doing so, he expertly supplies the cynical dry wit to match the nutty mayhem in a role some will be surprised to see him in.
Delpy is very much the passive-aggressive catalyst as Marion in the story, combining beauty, brains and cerebral brawn to propel the farce forward as all her players act and react within the confined space of the apartment. Although the French liberal ways seem at odds with the more reserved American ones on face value, ultimately, Delpy highlights the similarities in both cultures when the going gets rough, and it’s merely a difference of expression than purpose that is an intriguing aspect of the whole social affair.
The story also throws up some memorable tabooed subjects and presents them with a refreshingly open frankness that directly challenges our reaction while suggesting we self-reflect at the imperfections on display. There is also a sequence where Marion feels she is losing her inner soul, and where some might feel the film goes off on a bizarre and unnecessary tangent, but it does serves as a deal maker/breaker and allows Delpy to analyse where her character’s at in life.
This zany and hilarious observation of human interaction is beautifully scripted, acted and timed with expert comic precision, emphasising the subtle absurdity of – essentially – normality, and how it is perceived differently by different walks of life. Delpy has carefully crafted her film and given us intriguingly layered personalities that translate universally within a bohemian setting that could ultimately be staged anywhere.