Review: 2 Days in New York

22 Dec

Poster for 2 Days in New YorkTwo films this year have left me physically tired after the credits started rolling. Director and star Ben Affleck’s Argo was a fast-paced, edge of your seat political thriller that didn’t let you go until you were safely out of Iran; and, writer-director-star Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in New York thrusts you into a quick-cutting weekend of French-American culture clash in New York City. At the end of Argo, the rush of the film propelled Affleck to the top of my Oscar prediction chart for Best Director. At the end of 2 Days, the frantic 48 hours left me visibly uncomfortable and thankful that I just caught it on Netflix.

Having never seen the first film, 2 Days in Paris (2007), I was a little apprehensive to watch New York. Fortunately, there were no major connections that weren’t thoroughly explained in the first few minutes of the film. Marion (Delpy) lives in New York City with Mingus (Chris Rock) and both of their respective children from previous marriages. Mingus is a writer and radio talk show host while Marion is a photographer. Marion’s art show is opening that weekend and she thinks it would be good for her father to visit and see her show after her mother’s recent death. This situation literally opens the door to culture shock as Marion’s father Jeannot (Albert Delpy), sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and Marion’s ex-boyfriend/current boyfriend of Rose, Manu (Alexandre Nahon) all squeeze into a tiny New York apartment for two days. This simple act of kindness leads to the all-too-familiar antics that come out of the fish-out-of-water comedic set-up.

As much as Delpy moves the picture around, the story is made up primarily of hit-or-miss jokes (with all of the hits coming from Rock and all of the misses coming from Delpy) that don’t add up to a strong narrative to have us care about the characters. And Delpy’s last-ditch effort to make us feel something besides discomfort comes across as wildly out of left field and damn near insulting to the viewer.

Thankfully Delpy does give us something to latch on to amidst this whirlwind plot. The film sets us English-speakers up to sympathize with Mingus. Delpy consistently showcases Rock’s broad range of facial reactions to the outlandish behavior of these foreigners in his home-city of NY. Marion is often involved in these outbursts of rapid arguments of French insanity set at more reserved spaces in our lives, like at the dinner table when there is company or in a public coffee shop. Rock is astounded by the constant bickering between the sisters and offended when the boyfriend applies every tired African-American generalization to him in such pleasant dinner conversation. Mingus’s very limited understanding of the French language, and his failed attempts at physical communication, fuels all of these provocations, particularly with the father.

All of this is done at a rather break-neck pace with quick transitions and Delpy’s decision to never linger on a shot for too long. It comes across as if she was on Adderall in the editing room.

Fortunately, Rock can keep up with the film’s pace and has some very funny reactions to the boyfriend’s racial stereotypes. Rock revels in race and gender humor, as they are the staples of his stand-up material. Delpy offers him some sequences of relationship opportunities that Rock dives right into, mixing his vulgar comedy with a bit of a deeper dramatic side that took me by surprise. I believe this display shows that Rock has what it takes to become a true movie star one day.

I applaud Chris Rock for moving away from roles where he’s got a baby strapped to his chest the whole time or where he hides behind an animated zebra, and into more ambitious ones like this to try and establish himself in the film community. But the Chris Rock we want is not what we’re getting in this film, despite a few glimmers of hilarity that keep us hoping for more from America’s once greatest comedian.

 

Rating: 3/10 (Weak)

 

Title: 2 Days in New York

Director: Julie Delpy

Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau

Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon

Release Date: July 6 (VoD), August 10 (Limited)

Run Time: 96 min.

Rated: R

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