- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by Ezra Stead
rench-born writer, director and actress Julie Delpy has had extraordinary success with sequels to the types of films that don't normally get sequels. One of the films that helped her break through into American films was Richard Linklater's “Before Sunrise,” and its sequel, “Before Sunset,” was her first feature film writing credit, along with Linklater and co-sta, Ethan Hawke. Both of these films are essentially just Hawke and Delpy talking for 80 to 90 minutes in beautiful locations, but they are far from boring, and “Sunset” is the rare sequel that is at least as good as, if not better than, the original. Delpy's own debut film as a director, “2 Days in Paris,” is very much along the same lines, a film that is more focused on characters and conversations than plot, and which therefore seems like an unlikely candidate for a sequel.
Luckily, Delpy's follow-up, “2 Days in New York,” is another of those rare sequels that just might be even better than the original. Taking place a few years after “Paris,” the film finds Marion (Delpy) in New York with her two-year-old son Lulu (Owen Shipman) having left his father Jack (played by Adam Goldberg in “Paris”) and moved on with her life in America. Marion and Lulu now live with her new boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock) and his daughter from a previous relationship, Willow (Talen Riley). The film begins with poor Mingus just trying to get laid, even resorting to allowing Marion to call him her “koala bear,” and this problem only increases when Marion's crazy French family comes to visit. Returning from the first film is Delpy's real-life father, Albert Delpy, as Marions’ dad Jeannot, Alexia Landeau as her sister Rose, and Alex Nahon as Manu, Marion's former boyfriend and Rose's current one.
Mingus vents some of his stress at the situation on his radio show, while Marion prepares for a big gallery exhibition of her photography, all while doing their best to tolerate and accommodate their guests. Manu in particular makes things difficult by unintentionally mistranslating Mingus' words for Jeannot, who doesn't speak English, and awkwardly fetishizing Mingus' blackness, which he thinks is inherently “cool.” He also orders marijuana delivery to Mingus and Marion's apartment without their permission, which leads to an interesting and very funny illustration of the idea that it might be best to speak honestly with children of any age about tricky subjects like drug use, rather than making up nonsensical stories to protect them. Meanwhile, Marion has an ongoing conflict with her neighbors, Bella (Kate Burton) and Ron (Dylan Baker), which escalates when Marion makes up a bold lie in order to avoid potential eviction, leading to hilarious consequences later in the film.
“2 Days in New York” is bookended by some heavy-handed and rather unnecessary voiceover narration, but it makes up for this with rich characters and believable, witty dialogue. Jeannot is a delightfully ornery old man prone to tickling other adults and keying gas-guzzling cars, and one of the film's funniest moments is a horrific dream sequence in which Mingus imagines Marion's whole strange family guzzling pizza in an almost sexual way. Manu is a wonderfully unlikable creep who isn't shy about frank sexual conversations regardless of who is present, and Mingus talks to himself via a life-sized cardboard cutout of Barack Obama. Each character has their own interesting quirks, many of which are very funny, including Marion's most successful piece of art: a contract by which a benefactor (a great, self-effacing cameo by one of New York's most infamous artistic weirdos) buys her soul.
Despite the extraneous voiceover and a dead-end plot thread involving the Oak Fairy (Daniel Bruhl), an environmental activist living in an oak tree in Central Park, “2 Days in New York” is an intelligent and very funny examination of family, romantic relationships and faith. Its ending is a little too pat, and feels overly sentimental compared to the rest of the film, but its characters are relatable and entertaining enough to watch for the running time of a much longer film. However, like Mingus, I probably wouldn't want them to stay in my apartment for two days.