Woody Allen’s name is all over the newspaper ads for “2 Days in New York” and you can find his fingerprints on Julie Delpy’s new movie as well—this sequel to her 2007 comedy “2 Days in Paris” is a wacky Woodmanesque comedy of cultural difference in which the French director-actress gets to play ditzy neurotic Annie Hall to her own manipulative, kvetching Alvy Singer.
A claustrophobic farce, aptly framed by a display of hand puppetry, “2 Days in New York” is a mirror and companion to Delpy’s earlier film: Here, the ex-pat French artist Marion (Delpy) has a new American boyfriend, an alt-journalist cum talk radio personality named Mingus and played by Chris Rock; instead of bringing him to Paris to meet her parents, the trip she subjected the Adam Greenberg character to in “2 Days in Paris,” Mingus gets the treatment when her family descends upon their shared East Village digs. (Creative geography enables the couple to have what looks like a loft apartment in a housing project building.)
Marion’s rambunctious father (again played by Delpy’s actual father Albert Delpy) but now (as in life) a widower, exhibitionist sister Rose (Alexia Landau) and doper ex-boyfriend Manu (Alex Nahon, Delpy’s co-writer), who has taken up with Rose, are an insanely obtrusive bunch and, French alternating with (often mangled) English, the culture shock is even more extreme, largely predicated on the French trio’s obnoxious lack of couth. The performances are nothing if not naturalistic, meaning the actors wear out their welcome no less than their characters. In a way, their antics serve as camouflage for the film’s underlying psychodrama: Marion (like Delpy) is both an anxious mother and a bereaved child.
Alternating between a comic lack of vanity and a fearless willingness, long evident in her dramatic roles, to flirt with the annoying, Delpy can be very funny. Although always a strong presence, Rock is largely a foil. Humorous rather than riotous, he gamely plays straight man to a gaggle of French lunatics and mime a condition of perpetual sexual frustration, as well as engage in prolonged, painfully cute “conversations” with the life-sized cardboard cutout of Barack Obama he keeps in his office. (A far more effective cameo is provided by the always alarming Vincent Gallo, who has a terrific time playing himself in the context of the annual Greenwich Village Hallowe’en parade.)
Still, it’s Delpy’s show and the movie’s most elaborate scene is her gallery opening at which, in addition to situational photographic self-portraits, Marion is selling her soul as a conceptual work. Inevitably all the characters collide and then some–“This whole evening is turning into a horrible disaster,” she wails—and the theater of embarrassment is compounded when, having been driven mad by her family, the artist attempts to ingratiate herself by winds up insulting the snooty (and bizarrely unprofessional) art critic who shows up looking to review.
Their interaction is an inoculation against criticism of the movie because, in some respects, the critic is right. “2 Days in New York” is initially quite pleasing in its chaotic near slapstick but the non-stop manic insouciance grows wearisome and ultimately self-indulgent.