Review: 2 Days in New York
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
From Paris to New York, but to what effect..?
Before the review, two key disclosures. Number one: I haven’t seen 2007’s 2 Days in Paris, to which this film is a sequel. Number two: in 1996, just nine-years-old, I caught a VHS copy of Before Sunrise and instantly informed my mum that I was “totally going to marry that pretty French lady” (or words to that effect, I wasn’t down with the kids even when I was one). I found Julie Delpy to be mesmerisingly beautiful, witty, and winsomely French before Amelie made that irritating.
But it’s now 2012, so how much do these things matter? Well, hardly at all with the first point. Delpy, the writer and star of both films, has spoken in interviews of her desire to differentiate this series from the Before Sunrise stable, hence the decision to push the last film’s hubby Jack literally out of the picture rather than recalling him like Ethan Hawke.
Marion (Delpy) now lives in New York with their child Lulu, but Jack gets only cursory mentions throughout. And, while a couple of other cast members return in the form of her dad and ex-boyfriend Manu, you don’t feel you’re missing any secrets about them by the end, trust me. And Delpy herself? Well she’s aged undoubtedly. And she’s now channelling Woody Allen to a ludicrous degree, be it with dialogue, whimsy or just plain black-rimmed spectacles. But, all in all, she still boasts that same watchable screen presence.
And it’s a good job, because the film itself is far from perfect. It’s amusing, even laugh-out-loud funny at times, but it is slight. A great deal of your enjoyment will depend on whether you find the free-loving, cheese-wheeling French peasants in New York shtick funny or just plain irritating. I fell into the former camp, but only just.
The set-up is thus: Marion is now happily living with Mingus (a restrained but still hilarious Chris Rock) in his apartment. She’s an upcoming exhibition of her photos to look forward to, and he’s a writer with a radio show. So far, so sit-com careers, yes? But the script has a knowingly ironic quality. In his office, Mingus addresses a cardboard cut-out of Obama as if he’s a radio-therapist; the first black Frasier, if you will. Meanwhile, for her exhibition, Marion will literally sell her soul to the highest bidder as a piece of “conceptual art”.
Spoiler...This later turns out to be Vincent Gallo, playing himself, in a scene that proves a major highlight. He reveals he keeps the soul by his crotch...and a tussle ensues.
In any case, Marion and Mingus’ seemingly perfect union is firmly interrupted by the visit of Marion’s French family. There’s her dad Albert: a portly monolingual man held in US customs for four hours after attempting to smuggle a picnic’s worth of sausages and cheese into the country. Her sister Rose: a nudist nymphomaniac who is inexplicably a child therapist back home (“that’s truly terrifying,” Mingus articulates at the end, almost on behalf of everyone in the audience). And finally Rose’s boyfriend, and Marion’s ex, Manu.
“He only has mild schizophrenia,” Marion reassures Mingus.
“What’s mild?” Mingus replies, exasperated. “He only listens to the minor voices and kills Ringo instead of John?!”
Their presence drives the hitherto relatively sane Marion to bitch-fight in public with her sister and even fake a brain-tumour to avoid eviction. It also firmly drives a wedge between her and Mingus, and as we head towards the denouement we’re meant to wonder if she’ll fail to sell any pictures and ultimately break-up with Mingus. “Your family has revealed a new side to you,” he says. “The question is which is the real you: psychobitch or not psychobitch?”
But truly, you know all-too-well we’re headed for a happy ending. Not least, because the film is framed by a puppet show given by Marion to her child. This device allows Delpy to indulge in some implausible plot developments and offer a fairytale of sorts (albeit one with more swearing and mention of blowjobs than Cinderella). And the film delights in this breezy quality, mostly to good effect. I particularly like the way touristy scenes play out in 30-second freeze frame slots, sparing yet another homage to New York, New York. And who wouldn’t like the karma of releasing a trapped pigeon and then witnessing it literally shit all over everyone who’s been horrible to you and your family.
There’s a cost to all this though. The film jaunts along for every minute you’re watching it, but you struggle to recall much upon exiting the cinema. It doesn’t have much to say, and what it does say it doesn’t say quite funnily enough for repeat viewings. There was a time I’d have watched Delpy read the new phonebook twice-over, but this all feels a little too ex-directory.
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