If she’s known for anything, Julie Delpy is known for her films “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” made with director Richard Linklater and costar Ethan Hawke. And while those films were about the giddy feeling of falling head over heels for someone even when you know better than to believe in happily ever after, Delpy offered a counterpoint with the 2007 comedy she directed, “2 Days in Paris.” This was about the dysfunctional, meltdown point in a relationship where “sharing” had become all too easy and frequent.
Delpy’s beauty had always been so drop-dead mesmerizing and her art-house credentials so daunting (she’s worked with Godard, Kieslowski, Carax and Jarmusch) that apparently no one ever thought of her as comedy material, so she had to cast herself in such a role. It turns out that motor-mouthed comedy may be what she does best, as evidenced by “2 Days in Paris” and its equally funny sequel, “2 Days in New York.”
In the new film, Delpy’s character Marion — a “complicated” woman if ever there was one — has broken up with her kvetchy boyfriend Jack from the last film and is in a new, surprisingly stable relationship with the far more grounded radio host Mingus (Chris Rock). Both Mingus and Marion have kids from their previous relationships but are making it work — at least until Marion’s screwy sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and overly gregarious father Jeannot (Albert Delpy) arrive from Paris for a visit, cueing the return of buried family issues and cultural misunderstandings.
While Delpy’s last film had a feast on playing with Americans’ stereotypical views of the French, that’s more of a side dish this time, with the focus more generally on family imposition: Her dad refuses to shower and gripes about GMO food, Rose walks around the apartment nude (leading Mingus to believe she’s coming on to him) and worse, Rose’s obnoxious boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon) is in tow, and cheerfully informs Mingus that he used to be Marion’s lover (“I gave her her first orgasm”).
There’s a subplot involving Marion’s gallery opening, where beyond exhibiting some photos she decides on a Faustian conceptual stunt in which she will auction off her soul to the highest bidder; a nice comment on the gallery scene, actually.
Rock never quite gets the same level of screwball back-and-forth with Delpy that Adam Goldberg managed in the first film, but he does a good job as the straight man; Landeau and Nahon, who also collaborated with Delpy on the script, prove better foils, with Landeau nailing the petty issues that drive sibling rivalry and Nahon proving it’s not just Americans who are “ugly” when overseas, dropping one culturally insensitive bomb after another on his hosts.
People keep comparing Delpy’s “2 Days” movies with “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan”-era Woody Allen, and while that’s a valid point of reference, Delpy allows the film to go into sillier screwball territory that evokes far earlier Allen, as it becomes a delirious comedy of errors. True, there are those who will view the leads in “2 Days in New York” as unbearably neurotic hipsters self-obsessing over their relationships, but I’ll bet Delpy would agree with that assessment too — with the difference that she views with empathy their challenges in making a relationship last.