While your family may not be as wild as the stars of this movie, there's plenty of common ground to be found in Julie Delpy's latest film, "2 Days in New York." Julie Delpy, who cowrote the script, directed the movie and stars as Marion, understands how to get at the core of family relationships, whether it's longstanding sibling rivalry, maddening parents or the bumpy road of romantic love.
Picking up a few years after the events of "2 Days in Paris," we find Marion (Delpy) in a steady relationship with Mingus (Chris Rock). Don't be too worried if you missed "Paris" because Marion acts out a perfect explanation with puppets at the beginning of the film, which both wraps up the old story succinctly while setting the stage for the new.
Marion and Mingus both have children from previous relationships and have created one big mostly-happy family. When Marion's family decides to visit Manhattan from France, everything is thrown into uproar as Marion prepares for an enormous gallery show while attempting to corral her erratic sister, father and ex-boyfriend and juggle her relationship and their own blended family. Alexia Landeau and Alexandre Nahon, as Marion's's sister Rose and ex-boyfriend-turned-sister's-new-boyfriend Manu, are wonderful in their cringe-worthy performances, and Delpy's real-life father plays her sweet, though often socially inappropriate, dad.
Julie Delpy is a director still coming into her own, and so "2 Days" suffers a few hesitant moments and awkwardly staged plot lines. The underlying thrust of the story is the real-life loss of Delpy's mother and Albert's wife, who appeared in "2 Days in Paris." It's a thread that's picked up and dropped, then reappears oddly at the end. However, what's most remarkable about Delpy as a filmmaker is that she isn't afraid to make herself look bad. There's no glossing over Marion's numerous foibles and faults; she's narcissistic and prone to existential crises that affect the lives of those around her, she can't control her anger towards her sister and she struggles to balance motherhood with a meaningful career.
Delpy's script, co-written with Landeau and Nahon, is hilarious at times, unbelievable at others, but charming and watchable throughout. The cultural clash of the free-spirited French family up against the more no-nonsense New Yorkers makes for some funny situations, but ultimately it is Chris Rock who steals the show, playing somewhat more of a straight man than he's used to.
Rock's stability provides a delightful foil for Delpy's wild flailing about, and it is a credit to Delpy's directorial eye that she knew exactly the right mixture of farce and emotion to use when handling the scenes between Marion and Mingus. The movie's exploration of the racial dynamic, both between Marion and Mingus and their families, manages to be both compassionate and amusing.
This film wanders from genre to genre; it's a poignant family drama one moment, a raunchy comedy the next, and a faux intellectual think-piece after that, and as such, it is delightfully bizarre at times. Just as Marion and Mingus learn to go with the flow, so too must the audience allow themselves to be swept along in the experience.
While it's nowhere near a perfect film, "2 Days in New York" is worth seeing, not only for the comedy but also for the realism of the smaller moments. Delpy nails these small instances of anger, joy, love, passion and even indignation. Though the film itself suffers from too many characters and a bit of aimlessness, there's plenty of beauty to be found in the details.