2 Days in New York (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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2 Days in New York (2012)

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As my long-term committed friends and coworkers like to remind me, married or no, if you're in for the long-haul you're as much in a relationship with your partner as you are with the family.  One thing that Julie Delpy's latest film, 2 Days in New York, likes to remind us of this fact constantly.  Even if you're in the greatest relationship we all have different facets of our personalities we show around our families.

This lesson is building off of some of the same conclusions that Julie Delpy's character, Marion, reached in the previous film (2 Days in Paris.)  That time we were watching a relationship in decline between two different people who couldn't see past their ideas of each other into a workable whole.  But now that she's in New York and found Mingus (Chris Rock) the air is lighter and the conclusions a little breezier.  It may take a few trips around the block but we're bound to get the route down eventually.

New York, unlike it's predecessor, is much more of a comedy than Paris.  When we left Marion at the end of that film it was clear the relationship she and her now ex-boyfriend, and father of her child, was on the outs.  This time she's found someone who appreciates her artistic impulses and her need to keep parts of herself locked away.  I do miss some of the more biting scenes of that previous film, but this is a different relationship and a new story.

Chris Rock brings out the best of Julie Delpy's natural charm as a comedienne.

Delpy's sequel takes place in the titular two day span that her family is staying over from France before touring the rest of the United States.  At the beginning it seems as though they are going to be a bit too close to caricature.  Marion's father Jeannot (Albert Delpy) is first seen shirtless and being searched by airport security yielding a treasure trove of eight sausages and ten different types of cheese.  My fear was that Jeannot and the rest of Marion's clan would be decadent stereotypes, but Delpy's screenplay deftly dodges these issues.

The family troubles on display are obvious, especially with her sister Elizabeth's (Alexia Landeau) decision to bring her boyfriend and Marion's former lover Manu (Alexandre Nahon) along.  Almost immediately Manu is talking about how lucky Mingus is to be black while Elizabeth is loudly criticizing the decisions made by President Obama.  All the while they are playing around with the way people perceive them since they are from France.  Manu, in one funny moment, shows Marion's art dealer his bad photography is very French because of all the open spaces.

Delpy, not satisfied with just working in the framework of the family for her sequel, writes about how various racial and social conventions betray all of our opinions.  She's unafraid to portray Marion of doing the same thing her family does and it seems played the victim a bit after her last relationship with Mingus.  In a series of great moments and fun surprises with strangers we see how she Delpy looks at these cultural assumptions and how they're built into everyday life.  Even Mingus, insulted multiple times by Manu and his "Barack Obama is my homeboy" shirt, never stopped to ask the nationality of the proprietors of the massage parlor he goes to.  He assumes he knows, just like Manu knows he would have been a better black man than Mingus.


Manu is a bumbling farce throughout the film, forcing poor Mingus' daughter to make realizations about the world best kept secret for a few more years.

Those assumptions are built into the screenplay but not really the focus.  The real bread and butter are in the interations Marion and Mingus have with her family over those very long two days.  By and large they are very funny, and Jeannot turns out to be less an outrageous stereotype than a man whose lust for life left him with no partner since his wife died.  But the interactions are a bit too zany at times, leaving Marion's life more a quickly moving cartoon than an odd interlude with her family.

Some of the sequences work very well.  One moment, very late in the film, involves an anonymous purchaser of Marion's soul as part of an art collection.  The performer in the role of the purchaser makes perfect sense given the art world and when we finally see this mysterious person it makes brilliant sense given Marion's art.  But the conclusion is a bit too high-wire with an unneeded element of physical comedy and danger thrown in for no reason other than to give Delpy an opportunity to film something other than a group of people talking.

Small missteps aside, Dlepy's sequel shows that she has learned the lessons of her directorial partners of the past, especially Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Sunset.  Her film works on its own as a high-spirited and unusually smart comedy about perceptions in any number of relationships.  But like the best stories, she finds a way to connect it to the larger narrative that is going on all the time.

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2 Days in New York (2012)

Written, directed, and starring Julie Delpy.
Also starring Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, and Alexandre Nahon.

Posted by Andrew

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