Perhaps you remember Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris, a tense and anxious rom-com that took a vacationing couple through parts of Paris, parties and a teary-eyed conclusion lit by candles. I did not love it.
But I’ve had a crush on Delpy since seeing her in Before Sunrise. In that film, she played opposite Ethan Hawke and was some sort of nocturnal conversation angel, the sort of being any teen boy dreaming of travel could only hope to meet, take by the hand and set out to negotiate the streets of Vienna, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Paris, New York City…
While 2 Days in Paris felt something like Delpy playing a humorous riff on the Sunrise formula, 2 Days in New York is something different. And it’s better for it.
But don’t get me wrong. New York is still a comedy, it’s still directed by Delpy, it still stars Delpy; but it has Chris Rock, and it isn’t so much about two people being attacked by a virile city as it is about the collision of two cultures, two families.
Rock – whom Delpy had in mind for the film from the beginning – adds quite a lot to the movie. First off, he isn’t the Rock you might expect. He doesn’t crack jokes or tell people off; he’s thoughtful, ironic, somewhat reserved. His expression is the raised eyebrow, not the running mouth (despite his character being a radio host).
He is quite good. He offers New York what I thought was lacking in Paris: a figure to diffuse Delpy’s aloof and neurotic character.
Who are these characters, anyway?
Rock plays Mingus; Delpy plays Marion. Marion is a photographer (French), Mingus is a journalist (American). The two live New York, in an apartment, each with a child from a different relationship.
They are in love. Everything is great until Marion’s family flies over from Paris to spend a few days.
Then Marion’s dad — played by Delpy’s piratey Santa-looking real-life dad – keys the cars he doesn’t like. Her sister gets sexually weird and/or naked around any man she meets. And her sister’s friend introduces himself to Mingus as Marion’s ex-lover, which is awkward but true.
Mingus is not pleased.
Various antics ensue, such as the sister’s friend buying drugs in the couple’s apartment, in front of Mingus’ kid, and the journalist starts talking to a cardboard cut-out of Obama for relief. But even that support buckles after a real-life opportunity to interview the president is dashed due to the constant squabbling between Marion and her sister.
Amid this soup of culture clash, Marion and Mingus are trying to be lovers and professional people. The movie highlights and makes fun of how difficult it can be to be many things — a photographer, an ex, a mom, a journalist, a dad, a girlfriend, a daughter, bilingual, older.
One could imagine the movie as Delpy making fun of her own situation. She is a director, actress, mother, writer, and she’s doing all these things amidst the clutter of L.A. and a not-quite-Hollywood lifestyle. But amidst the craziness of modern life, things sift themselves out, her movie suggests.
Indeed, the movie’s writing almost ties things up too nicely. Where a shoestring knot would have done, it gives you the Boy Scout special. But this is a minor complaint, really.
New York may not have had me dreaming of NYC adventures, but it did provide a goofy trip with a cool couple that was not without laughs or surprises. At least I can say I liked it more than Paris.