'2 Days in New York'
Rated R for profanity, sexual content, brief nudity and the depiction of drug use.
The new movie from French writer-director-actress Julie Delpy is titled "2 Days in New York," but the irritating evidence on-screen suggests the contamination of not days but years of immersion in America, or at least the more wearying examples of its commercial film culture.
In place of wit and charm, we get frank and by now obligatory sex talk; instead of an engaging storytelling rhythm, we're offered fast edits and almost random cuts. Is this poor filmmaking, or an indication of a master plan?
"2 Days in New York" is a sequel of sorts to the superior and modestly popular "2 Days in Paris" (2007), also written and directed by its star. (You don't need to be familiar with the first film to appreciate the new one). In both efforts, Delpy presents herself as a sort of sexy Gallic distaff Woody Allen — a smart cookie suffering from high anxiety.
The earlier film followed Marion (Delpy) and her neurotic American boyfriend (Adam Goldberg) on a trip to Marion's home city, to meet her family. The new movie reverses the formula (and ditches Goldberg), as Marion and her new boyfriend, Mingus (Chris Rock, the movie's saving grace), welcome Marion's gregarious, Santa Claus look-alike father (Albert Delpy, Julie's actual dad), her exhibitionist sister (Alexia Landeau) and the sister's lovable-loser boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon), to their too-small Manhattan apartment.
Where "New York" is sloppy, "Paris" was casual; where the new film is coarse, its predecessor was natural. One might give Delpy the benefit of the doubt and suggest the differences are intended to reflect the values and personalities of their respective cities, but almost everything in the hectic "2 Days in New York" falls so flat one must conclude its annoyances are unintentional.
Most of the interest in "2 Days in New York" is due to the interracial nature of Marion's romance. As in a mainstream feature film, "foreigners" are presented as amusingly uncouth, and their fractured English and inappropriate behavior is milked for comedy. Mingus, meanwhile, is the most levelheaded and perhaps intelligent person on-screen. This might be another of the film's reversals: In the typical movie set up, Third World visitors or ethnic players in general are presented in comic contrast to the lead white characters, but here, the educated Europeans are the goofballs. Their fascination with black American culture becomes a motif, and Obama references are rampant. "Man, you're lucky to be black," the clueless Manu tells Mingus, adding: "I would have made a cool black man."
In this context, Marion's sitcom woes and hackneyed biography are particularly uninteresting. Marion and Mingus, we learn, met each other while both were working at the Village Voice; she is an art photographer, and she's also selling her soul to the highest bidder, "as a conceptual piece."
A flashback to her pre-Mingus days finds her whining: "I'm going to be 38. I'm fat ... Who's going to want me?" We're supposed to sympathize with her Everyman insecurity, but hearing Julie Delpy, of all people, complain about her unattractiveness is one of the less appealing moments of the movie year.