Indie icon Julie Delpy writes, directs and stars in culture-clash comedy 2 Days in New York (2012), her follow-up to 2007 romantic drama 2 Days in Paris which makes its way to DVD and Blu-ray this week. As the title would suggest, Delpy’s hapless heroine Marion has remained in the Big Apple despite previous heartache, this time entering into a relationship with her charismatic co-worker Mingus (Chris Rock). With her eccentric family inbound for a prolonged visit, French and American lifestyles collide in a sharply-scripted, largely pleasing comedy of errors set against the familiar backdrop of ‘The City That Never Sleeps’.
Unceremoniously dumped by old flame – and father of her only child – Jack (Adam Goldberg) following an eventful visit to Paris, Marion falls into the arms of Mingus, a kind, witty disc jockey who has himself just come out of a long-term, child-producing relationship. Whilst contented by their somewhat unconventional familial set-up, the peace is soon shattered with the arrival of Marion’s widower father Jeannot (Delpy’s real-life dad Albert), her promiscuous sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and Rose’s pot-smoking boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon). So begins 48 hours of crossed wires, cultural faux pas and Manhattan-set mayhem.
Following a successful World Premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, critical reception to Delpy’s latest light comedy has been somewhat mixed, with some commentators bemused by the overt utilisation of stereotyping. However, rather than merely regurgitate a series of tired caricatures, Delpy actively sends up both French and American cultural mythology. Marion’s father Albert is introduced trying to smuggle a variety of pungent French sausages through US customs – yes, we get the joke. Yet he quickly reveals himself to by a warm, welcoming potential father-in-law to Mingus (rather than an aloof intellectual), despite the loss of his own wife in the interim period between the two films.
Landeau’s French belle Rose is similarly well-drawn, a classic extrovert who harbours inside mixed feelings of both envy and admiration for her settled sibling Marion. Serving up a significant majority of the 2 Days in New York’s most humorous moments is Rose’s latest squeeze Manu, a somewhat slimy dimwit whose clumsy attempts at ingratiating himself to the African American Mingus often come across as borderline racist (“Man, I wish I was black”). The best performances do, however, come courtesy of Delpy and Rock, a refreshingly realistic couple who bicker and argue as much (if not more) as kiss and kanoodle.
A subplot involving Delpy’s Marion literally ‘selling her soul’ (as part of an art installation) does feel heavily tagged-on, with a bizarre cameo appearance from the infamous Vincent Gallo just as likely to raise a bemused eyebrow than a knowing smile. There are also several points where Delpy goes for the obvious laugh, but one would be cruel to chastise the French director too harshly for inserting a little mainstream appeal into proceedings. Whilst far from groundbreaking, 2 Days in New York remains a welcome shot-in-the-arm to the rom-com genre.