Cultural clashes, sibling quarrels and linguistic barriers are the comic ingredients in Julie Delpy’s delightful and occasionally raunchy Franco-American comedy “2 Days in New York.” This is sort of a follow-up to her 2007 comedy “2 Day in Paris” with several of the same characters yet the two films stand alone.
Delpy’s madcap touch is once more evident in the disheveled comedy and bracing, freeform mis-en-scène that plants organized chaos on the screen. Let’s put it this say: When the screen overflows with a bunch of crazed characters and Chris Rock is the normal one, things really are crazy.
Writing the screenplay with two of the film’s actors, Alexia Landeau and Alex Nahon, Delpy again situates her French photographer heroine, Marion, whom she herself plays, in a two-day ordeal with a mischievous family although as the title indicates the Americans should have the home field advantage this time.
They don’t. When the French family is headed by Delpy’s own exuberant actor-father Albert Delpy, American principles and mores stand little chance.
Whatever role that family may or may not have played in Marion’s break-up with her previous boyfriend Jack (played by Adam Goldberg in that film), the two are now parents of a young son while her new live-in boyfriend Mingus (Rock) has a daughter by a previous marriage. The kids live with them quite happily.
Mingus is a successful talk-radio host and journalist while she is about to have a gallery opening of her art. In other words, the stage is set for disaster, which begins at the airport when U.S. Customs seizes about 20 pounds of cheese and cold cuts her dad Jeannot tries to smuggle in.
Sister Rose (Landeau) meanwhile smuggles in her boyfriend Manu (Nahon), which would be bad enough if Manu hadn’t been Marion’s ex as well. Where is everyone to sleep in a Manhattan apartment that is the size of … well, a Manhattan apartment?
What you have to like about the mayhem that ensues is that it goes against cultural stereotypes. The French in American movies about the two nations are always treated as urbane sophisticates while Americans are either innocents abroad or uncouth cowboys.
Delpy portrays her French family as one without filters about what they say or do. The child-psychologist sister finds all sorts of fictional problems with her sibling’s kid, the father wants to know all about her daughter’s sex life and taking showers and wearing clothes appear to be pretty much optional for this group.
At one point Marion demands to know from her father whether Rose was adapted. She couldn’t possibly share any genes with her. The only way they bond is by quarreling.
Then there’s Manu, who finds Mingus’ name hysterically funny — it rhymes with a certain sexual act — and invites a drug dealer over to the flat because he’s afraid of the city’s streets.
And so things go as the art gallery opening coincides with a wild Halloween eve and an unfortunate decision by Marion to sell her soul at the reception as a “conceptional piece.” You won’t believe who buys it!
The remarkable thing is the ease with which Delpy rolls out the comedy. One scene in particular where she is arguing vehemently with her sister while Manu is mistranslating to the father everything Mingus says in English is painstakingly precise in its dialogue delivery and editing yet unfolds with complete naturalness.
It’s also a surprisingly pleasure to see Chris Rock in a calmer role where he can be reflective and hold quiet chats with a cutout of Barack Obama in his study.
Lubomir Bakchev did the fine cinematography, getting his camera where it needs to be without any fuss, while Isabelle Devnick is the heroic editor who finds the comic rhythm within each scene.
The credits seem to indicate interiors were mostly shot in Europe while exterior scenes and pick-up shots were in New York. That too is seamless.
Opens: August 10, 2012 New York; Expands August 17 (Magnolia Pictures)
Production: Polaris in coproduction with Tempete Sous Un Crane, Senator Films, Saga Film, Alvy Productions, Inproduction, TDY Film Produktion, BNP Parabas Film Fund in association with Protozoa Pictures
Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon, Dylan Baker, Kate Burton, Daniel Bruhl, Emily Wagner
Director/music: Julie Delpy
Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau
Story by: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon
Based on original characters by: Julie Delpy
Producers: Christophe Mazodier, Scott Franklin, Julie Delpy, Ulf Israel, Hubert Toint, Jean-Jacques Neira
Executive producers: Helge Sasse, Mathias Triebel
Director of photography: Lubomir Bakchev
Production designer: Judy Rhee
Costume designer: Rebecca Hofherr
Editor: Isabelle Devnick
R rating, 95 minutes