France invades Manhattan in ‘2 Days in New York’
Updated: August 16, 2012 4:58PM
2 DAYS IN NEW YORK
★ ★ ★
Okay, we’ve all heard of ugly Americans. Isn’t about time the world got a look at the ugly French?
That’s primarily what’s on display, comedy-wise, in writer/director/composer and star Julie Delpy’s follow-up to her 2007 writing, directing, composing debut “2 Days in Paris” (in which, yes, she also starred as bi-continental photographer Marion).
Most of the main characters in “Paris,” including Delpy dad Albert, who played her fictional father Jeannot, plus Alexia Landeau and Alexandre Nahon, who played her nymphomaniacal child-psychologist sister Rose and her obnoxious, idiotic ex-boyfriend Manu, respectively, also show up in “New York.”
Only fictional boyfriend Jack (who has disappeared, leaving behind a little boy Marion calls Lulu for some crazy French reason) and fictional mom Anna (played by real-life Delpy mom Marie Pillet) are notably missing — Pillet for the very good reason that she passed away in 2007, only days before “2 Days in Paris” debuted at the Berlin Film Festival.
Delpy has dedicated “2 Days in New York” to her mother and turned her death into a plot motivator. Her fictional father Jeannot, it seems, has not been faring well after the death of his wife, causing sister Rose to suggest a visit to New York — a situation that comes as an alarming surprise to Marion’s new live-in boyfriend Mingus (played by Chris Rock sporting a be-bop goatee). Especially when he learns that ex-boyfriend Manu has come along for the ride.
An odd mix of family comedy (riffing on kinky sex, drug use and other activities not typically associated with American family values) and romantic comedy, “2 Days in New York” focuses on hip talk-radio host Mingus’s appalled reaction to his Gallic guests’ assorted improprieties. Sister Rose walks around in various stages of undress, Manu invites a drug dealer up to the apartment and wishes he were black instead of Jewish, while Jeannot, who was almost arrested in customs for smuggling sausage and cheese in his pants, refuses to bathe.
Mingus is hip all right, which allows Rock to employ his stand-up skills, but he’s also surprisingly stiff and a stickler for conventional behavior — even with that goatee.
It’s not long before the stress (and the out-of-control Frenchness) of the situation begins to erode Mingus and Marion’s cozy relationship. Of course, it doesn’t help that Marion was already stressed by an upcoming exhibit of her photos, at which she also plans to sell her soul for $10,000. Or that she’s a bit moody and irrational, with morning sickness to boot, eventually leading to a surprise revelation that’s not really so surprising.
Rock supplies most of the laughs with his wondering/outraged reactions, though he seems most at ease in the scenes when Mingus has retreated to his office for extended man-to-man talks with a life-size photo of Barack Obama.
Delpy’s script sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Whimsy and
weirdness appear to be her strong suits, one nicely represented by the scene in which she explains divorce to her son with a puppet show and the other by an encounter with actor/director Vincent Gallo, who has bought her soul and refuses to sell it back, leading to a punch-up in a bar.
It’s odd, though, that she has saddled Albert, Rose and Manu with what amounts to a greatest-hits of clichés about the French, making them by turns cleanliness-challenged, sex-crazed, argumentative and rude. And written some violently argumentative behavior for herself as well.
“2 Days in Paris” played well in France (on the way to earning $15 million of its $19 million worldwide gross outside the U.S.). But this one? Peut-etre pas.