Taking place a few years after “Two Days in Paris,” with the events from that film summed up in a puppet show, Jack (played Adam Goldberg) is gone and Marion (Delpy) lives in New York with her boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock) and their respective children from previous relationships. Both lead artistic New York lives as Marion is about to open a photo exhibit and Mingus is writing for the Village Voice along with hosting two radio shows. Marion’s father Jeannot (Albert Delpy) and sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) are coming to New York to spend time as a family following the death of Marion’s mother. The promise of foreign customs and crazy old men is fulfilled the second we meet Dad, locked in customs and removing the sausages he strapped to his chest.
The weekend turns for the telegraphed terrible when Rose’s new boyfriend (Alexandre Nahon), who happens to be one of Marion’s infamous exes, tries to impress Mingus with his appreciation of African-American culture by sporting a Barack Obama t-shirt, quoting Salt n’ Pepa and buying pot in the living room. What comes next is the backbone of every mis-matched family comedy: language barriers, inside jokes, stifled libido, ass cracks, hair pulling, accidental nudity, misinterpretation, urination and nightmares. How will Marion deal with Mingus’ growing dislike and annoyance of her own family when they may have a new addition to theirs? What will happen at the gallery showing, where in a last-ditch attempt to gain press, she’s selling her soul for $10,000? Delpy isn’t that low-brow, except when she wants to be (Mingus rhymes with…) but the tension building in the house is best illustrated by a dream sequence where Mingus is surrounded Marion’s family, clad in gowns and wigs, devouring their food until settling on him as the next course. Rock’s reactions are about what can be expected from him—loud, exaggerated and perfect for the moment.
Every exchange is played out to subtle comic ends. Mingus is prickly when asked about Obama, yet later we discover his office is littered with magazine ads, photos of the President and even a cardboard cut-out that he vents to. A little white lie from Marion to shut up her annoying neighbor leads to her eventual art world success. Then there’s a celebrity cameo that comes so far out of left field that the moment Delpy takes to explain who it is evokes a response from said cameo to correct her and list his own achievements. A cynic could dismiss all this as happenstance, but not when dealing with a comedian like Chris Rock, whose character keeps a massive “Black Orpheus” poster in his office, or Delpy’s ending a stop-motion montage of New York sightseeing with a single yellow balloon floating away. These very calculated references are the backbone that supports “2 Days in New York,” a sequel not just ready to rely on a past formula for success, but one that builds a rich and believable world for these characters to play in.
Not everythign works, and other jokes feel dated. Among them, a sequence involving the family running into Mingus’ former colleague, now in the Obama administration. As he promises Mingus access to an upcoming presidential press conference, Rose’s tactless boyfriend gives a thumbs up and adds, “Kumar! I love Kumar!” Another involves Rose, a psychosexual children’s therapist that loves walking around nude, then questions if Mingus is leering at her.
But through all of this, Delpy’s point is clear: family is important even if they’re all batshit crazy, because that’s what family is about and if the rights cleared there’d probably be a few seconds of Sly and the Family Stone right about now. There’s a semblance of restraint on her part to end on a dance party, rather than with usual wrap up of scenes of conflict resolution and embraces. Still, her magically compressed Manhattan brings up the usual complaints any native has when watching their city on screen: how does she get from Chelsea to the West Village so fast during the Halloween Parade? Why go to Central Park when they’re in Chinatown? How do they afford a three bedroom apartment on a photographer and writer’s salary?
The sequel for any comedy threatens the viewer with the possibility of reheated jokes and a stale premise, leading to a lesser run through comic terrain that has already been covered. But Delpy’s film is fresh, vibrant and most of all, disarmingly funny. Like the very best characters, Marion is someone you’ll be glad to revist and “2 Days In New York” with her, is not bad at all. [B]