2 Days in New York is the hilarious sister film to Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris (2007). The two films share a love of snarky fast-talking heroes and revel in the complications of French-American relations. In this film Marion (Julie Delpy) has moved back to New York and is now living with her new boyfriend (Chris Rock) and their two children from previous marriages. Marion is about to have a big art opening so her father (Albert Delpy) and sister (Alexia Landeau) have come to visit, bringing Marion’s ex and Rose’s new boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon). As you can imagine, all hell breaks loose.
The comic style of 2 Days In New York’s brings to mind the great screwball comedies of Howard Hawkes (His Girl Friday) and Preston Sturges (The Great McGinty) where even as things approach the absurd characters remain bitingly witty and intelligent. Punch lines come and go without a pause for laughter, and even as the film descends into near farce it feels grounded and smart. A wonderful cast populates the screen, each playing characters that are lovable and charming while annoying and mischievous in their own way. A standout is Marion’s father, Jeannot, who is actually played by Delpy’s real life father. He’s fat, old, and all things French. He shamelessly ogles the women of New York City, keys cars because he can, and refuses to drink American coffee or as he calls it “sock juice.” Meanwhile, at the eye of this cross-cultural tornado of absurdity sits Chris Rock, the lovable straight man. Constantly falling prey to the shenanigans of his French in-laws, Rock’s character is the one we identify with. He tries his best to be a good host, smiles when he’s uncomfortable, and complains about his guests to his cardboard cutout of President Obama.
The star of 2 Days In New York is writer/director and lead actress Julie Delpy(Broken Flowers). Her Marion is a wonderful albeit flawed heroin. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and fierce but also manipulative, compulsive, and deceitful. She convinces the neighbor she has a brain tumor to get out of an argument and when Rock’s character tries to confront her about her son’s strange behavior she turns it on him, and within seconds has him apologizing for the actions of his own daughter. Yet, as much fun as it is to watch her weave her web of deceit, after some time one can’t help but feel bad for Rock, the constant butt of her jokes. After a time Rock grows sick of it too. Is this the real her he’s finally meeting, he demands, or just some hormone crazed woman who showed up with her family? The film never quite answers this question. While Rock’s character has an arc, which ends with him choosing whether he should stay or go, Delpy’s character never really changes.
Taken scene by scene the film is fantastic. It’s a hilarious portrait of miscommunication and the things that get lost in translation. But taken as a whole it falls just short of greatness as the final act feels lacking. While most romantic comedies finish with couples either resolving their differences and staying together or not resolving them and breaking apart, 2 Days in New York goes a different route. Here, instead of addressing their problems, the two lovers here simply sidestep them. True, the idea that two people could forget their differences to be with one another is touching. However, as a resolution to a conflict, it’s rather unsatisfying. In fact, it isn’t even a true ending. What will happen when it comes up again in the future? Will they stay together or break apart? It’s an interesting notion for a medium that has often been suggested to be all about the finale. Perhaps, as Delpy seems to suggest, the ending doesn’t matter.