2 Days in New York might have the weirdest acting pair of the year.
For starters, I didn’t even know Julie Delpy was working on a sequel to 2 Days in Paris, a sort of neurotic companion piece to the Richard Linklater films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset she starred in opposite of Ethan Hawke.
But to cast Chris Rock, the controversial funny man, in a role somewhat outside of his boundaries, is a bold and impressive move from Delpy, who co-wrote, directed and reprised her lead character Marion. The pairing isn’t exactly something you’d expect to see. Rock, who plays Marion’s newest boyfriend Mingus, is out of his territory as an actor and a character.
Marion, having broken up with Jack (Adam Goldberg in 2 Days in Paris), now lives in New York City with writer/radio DJ Mingus. Each has a child of their own from divorced marriages. Marion’s very French father and sister (and unexpectedly her sister’s boyfriend) are visiting for the week and unintentionally do their best to drive a wedge between the couple.
What’s wonderful about Delpy’s two films, which take heavily from the similar Linklater films, is her course for relationship disaster. She’s writing this story, she can interject and add more common sense to characters. But there’s something attractive to her about watching a train wreck and seeing whether or not two people, in love, can survive it. Absolutely everything goes wrong for Marion and Mingus in the time her very silly and inappropriate father Jeannot (played by Delpy’s real life father Albert Delpy) and her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau), who wouldn’t know good judgment if she tripped over it, arrive in New York. The appearance of Marion’s “ex” Manu (Alexandre Nahon) doesn’t help matters.
Delpy’s terrifically funny film is as close as we’ll get to a female Woody Allen. She gives a seriously neurotic and maddening vision on relationships. Marion herself is obsessed with relationships. Having failed with many, she uses it as the centerpiece theme for her upcoming art exhibit.
Rock actually does fit well within 2 Days in New York. Playing an educated, sensible father of a young daughter, Rock matches Delpy’s idea of madness with a surprisingly good performance. He is certainly outside his expected range and comfort zone, but Rock brings his style of humor and matches it well with Delpy’s arthouse style. I was as surprised by his great performance as I was learning about his spot in the film.
But things really succeed with Delpy’s father Albert. Reprising his role from the previous film, Albert nails his performance as the lunatic Jeannot, who tried to get away with smuggling sausage and cheese to the country. His eccentricities and odd humor lighten the rather tense moments in the relationship between Marion and Mingus.
Marion, as self-destructive as she can be, is an interesting character when viewing her as someone who doesn’t act the way she might be perceived. She has petty arguments with her sister and can’t control her nerves. She comes off as a bright intellectual who should be above such a thing. Her plans to sell her soul, as a stunt at her gallery exhibit, display these ulterior motives of thinking, of understand and of insight into her very bizarre mind. She’s more off her rocker than you would think, making her a terrific character to study for an hour and a half.
The film is beautifully a tribute to her mother Marie Pillet, who appeared in the 2007 film 2 Days in Paris but passed away in 2009. In the film, her father has also just lost his wife, making it an all too real replication of the Delpy family. Knowing that while watching the film certainly piles on a great deal of emotion and sympathy for Delpy and her confused Marion, but also adds more insight in realizing why and how she is championing (and jealous of) her mother for having a great, long-standing relationship with her husband.
Being a big fan and admirer of Delpy’s talents and beauty, 2 Days in New York was an easy winner for me. It’s a must to watch the first film before diving into her latest neurotic love story, if only to get a sense of Marion, her family and Delpy’s writing style, which is quick, clever and satisfyingly smart. It also wouldn’t hurt if you watched the Linklater films to help yourself fall even more in love with her.