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2 Days in New York

August 18, 2012
2 Days in New York

I want to start by saying that Julie Delpy may not be the same as her character, Marion, in 2 Days in Paris and its new sequel, 2 Days in New York. Indeed, in most cases it’s a mistake to identify actors with their best characters. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that there is much of Delpy in Marion; from her writing and directing in addition to her acting she seems marvelously, hilariously, adorably crazy. And, having swapped out Adam Goldberg for Chris Rock, the film feels like Woody Allen in his prime behind the camera, but with an irresistible lightness folded into the panic. It’s a grown-up Amelie in America; neurotic without the nebbish.

Marion (Delpy) and Jack have split up in the last film, but not before having a son, Lulu (Owen Shipman). Marion has stayed in New York — still working at her photography — so Jack can still see Lulu, and she is now with her Village Voice co-worker, Mingus (Rock), who has partial custody of his daughter, Willow (Talen Riley), from a previous marriage. They live together in a beautiful, but cramped, old apartment with its share of quirks from an elevator that sticks to a buzzer that’s much to loud to a pair of neighbors (Kate Burton and Dylan Baker) who want them and their noisy kids out of the building.

Marion’s mother has passed, so she invites her father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy), and sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau), to visit for her big gallery show where she will offer not only her photographs for sale, but her soul. As in, by contract, to the highest bidder, as a conceptual piece. What she doesn’t count on is Rose bringing along her boyfriend — and Marion’s ex-boyfriend, as we remember — Manu (Alexandre Nahon).

The houseguest scenario has been done to death, as has the culture-clash. But so was the lovers-in-Paris routine when Delpy made 2 Days in Paris, and just as in that film she finds a way to start on familiar ground before going off to do her own thing. Which thing largely consists of setting up a supporting cast of quirky characters — Rose is an exhibitionist and borderline nymphomaniac; Manu has no sense of what’s appropriate; Jeannot appears to be entering his second childhood; the neighbors are middle-aged New York City bobos — and letting them carom off of each other while she digs herself out of one tight spot and into another.

Rock is the one who provides the balancing point. It’s not that he’s the perfect boyfriend, but he spends more of his time trying to maintain his composure while everything around him goes crazy. And it’s far more interesting to see Mingus try to keep his cool than it was to watch Jack sulk his arrogant way through the shock of being confronted with Marion’s sexual history.

Overall, 2 Days in New York is of a piece with 2 Days in Paris, employing similar devices and covering some similar ground from a slightly different vantage point. But in the intervening five years Delpy has refined and tightened her style. Or maybe she’s just gotten better at tailoring her movies to an American audience, and it’s just another matter of navigating between the two cultures.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.

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