Despite starring Chris Rock, Julie Delpy's directorial follow up to her 2007 comedy simply isn’t funny.
Hopping from one chic capital city to another, director Julie Delpy follows her 2007 comedy 2 Days in Paris with a frantic, intermittently amusing sequel.
Having split with Jack, her partner from the first film, artist Marion (Delpy) now lives in New York with her son Lulu, hipster DJ boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock), and his daughter from a previous relationship. Though work commitments obstruct the pair’s sex life, they are happy – if ill-prepared for the visit of Marion’s eccentric French family.
As soon as they arrive, the floodgates open for a cavalcade of excruciating Meet the Parents-style situations. Cultural stereotypes abound, including unrestrained sexuality (Marion’s sister, Rose, played by Alexia Landeau); poor, garlic-influenced personal hygiene (her father, played with sybaritic relish by Delpy’s real-life papa, Albert); and generally louche, antagonistic behaviour in the form of Manu (Alexandre Nahon), Marion’s dissolute ex, who seems to conflate his own addiction to weed with hackneyed notions of ‘blackness’ much to the chagrin of Mingus.
Mingus and Marion make for an intriguing pair, and the drama hinges on this central couple’s ability to maintain their relationship and professional lives in the face of such a blizzard of disruptive activity. Sadly though, a handful of keenly observed scenes (including a discussion between Mingus' parents and Marion’s sister that unexpectedly turns to political rap pioneers The Last Poets) are outweighed by a surfeit of madcap set-pieces, which accelerate quickly to a point of shrill climax.
Amid the strained farce, there’s barely time for the key characters to develop or address the stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings that arise.
2 Days in New York’s biggest problem is that for a comedy, it simply isn’t funny. Many of the setups are telegraphed and wouldn’t pass muster on a mid-ranking TV sitcom. The language-barrier jokes swiftly pall and, worst of all, there’s a groan-inducing subplot about a fake brain tumour, which stretches both credibility and patience.
Mingus, impressively essayed by Rock, is the film’s most interesting character. He seems to be the very embodiment of Time journo Touré’s formulation of the idea of 'post-Blackness'. A Barack Obama fanatic, he’s introverted, obsessed by his music and art, and characteristically functions as a subtle counterpoint to the rather heavy handed artistic self-analysis of Marion, who literally sells her soul to the highest bidder as part of a confessional art project.
Despite its flaws, 2 Days in New York is a good-natured, fiercely contemporary affair in which Delpy has captured a visually vibrant, colourful cityscape. It works best in its refreshingly frank portrayal of a liberal modern family in all its complexity. How often do we see content, mixed-race families in mainstream entertainment? Furthermore, it effectively communicates the universal, heightened anxiety inherent in that dreaded visit from the in-laws. For that, it deserves credit.
A sequel to look forward to.
Strained, and not as funny as it should be.
Reflection reveals a warm heart, sweet nature, and contemporary sensibility.