Make no mistake, 2 Days in New York is not another needless sequel. For all Julie Delpy’s self-absorption and penchant for glaring artistic self-preservation (she’s one of those types who can run an entire film production by taking everybody’s jobs – actor, writer, director, musical composer), she makes films with a purpose. Just as Before Sunrise is incomplete without Before Sunset (which she co-wrote), Delpy’s 2007 effort 2 Days in Paris somehow demands a follow-up, and she gives us worthy, even more raucous, more hysterical comedy of cross-culture clashes and relationship mayhem that bugs most modern couples today. It’s a vividly intelligent, refreshingly contemporary take on the romantic comedy genre, a film category wasteland strewn with Hollywood career corpses of Jennifer Anistons, Kate Hudsons and Drew Barrymores. What makes 2 Days in New York work rather wonderfully is because it’s an American slice-of-life told through a very French perspective.
Delpy’s Marion is a living, breathing Gallic version of Annie Hall, a woman teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown, fighting bouts of 21st century neuroses and self-deprecation. She’s relocated to the Big Apple from the City of Lights, after breaking up with Adam in Paris, and now somewhat comfortably settled with a makeshift family comprising Chris Rock’s Mingus and his daughter – only until the French side of the family pays a visit. Rock, whose comedic chops have already been proved onscreen, takes a change of pace and delivers a superbly controlled, understated yet nuanced turn as a straight man-of-the-house being confronted by a decidedly French, wildly bohemian domestic invasion that pushes his relationship with Marion into the precipice of dissolution. The result is an uproarious, freewheeling observational work of farce that barely lets up until its final minutes, which includes Delpy’s Marion fictionalising a brain tumour that provokes a series of very funny moments of chaos and dysfunctional comedy. Traces of Annie Hall can be found, of course, as Delpy takes on a Woody Allen-esque subgenre of thoughtful rom-com, but you can’t deny Delpy’s sincerity and no-nonsense honesty in her screenplay. Behind every laugh, there’s always a twinge of melancholy and irony. Behind every awkward squirm, there’s always truth about emotional complexities. For a film that builds almost absurd hilarity all throughout, it somehow miraculously manages to find moments to stop, breathe and reflect on what makes the ride worthwhile.
An uproariously chaotic and idiosyncratic slice-of-life portrait that works like Meet The Parents for the more sophisticated audience. Delpy knows how to make a follow-up, and this is a comedy that doesn’t insult the sexiest organ we have – our brains.