Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: "2 Days in New York"

Is Julie Delpy the most under-appreciated actress in the world? French actresses with her stature (a three-time César nominee) are often the crown jewel of Hollywood. Julie Delpy has barely made a dent in North American markets. My first taste of her talent was in Richard Linklater's brilliant 1995 film Before Sunrise, but I think her greatest performance was in Krysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: White (1994). Delpy and Ethan Hawke reunited with Linklater in 2004's equally mesmerizing Before Sunset. Delpy, who co-wrote the screenplay with Hawke and Linklater, has a definite knack for understanding the relationship between a man and woman and creating a story which flows beautifully through dialogue. In 2007 Delpy directed her first feature film, 2 Days in Paris. Not only that, she starred in, produced and composed the film's soundtrack. Like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, 2 Days in Paris looked at the relationship between a man and a woman, only this time it centred on a woman bringing her American boyfriend to meet her parents in Paris. 2 Days in New York is the sequel which sees Marion (Delpy) inviting her family to visit her in New York to meet her boyfriend (Chris Rock). It is hard to believe, but the film is an improvement on its first incarnation. Julie Delpy is more comfortable as a writer and director, and this shows through the pacing and handling of the chaos on screen. Credit must also be given to Chris Rock who offers one of his best and most subdued performances, akin to Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine. Less is more for comedians on screen, in my opinion. Julie Delpy has a difficult job juggling all her roles: actor, director, producer and editor, but I am much more impressed by her ability to handle the language on screen. She perfectly handles the chaos of English and French dialogue without compromising the story. 2 Days in New York features great performances and a story that is told in a such a quirky and eccentric way that is both humorous and enlightening.

Marion (Delpy) has moved back to New York from Paris. She and Jack (Adam Goldberg, from 2 Days in Paris) have a son. They live with her new boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock). Marion is still working as a photographer and Mingus is a radio host. Marion's family, including her father Jeannot (Delpy's real-life father Albert Delpy) and her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau), are set to arrive from Paris for her photography exhibit. Mingus has never met her family before and he is justifiably worried. Marion is outraged when Rose arrives with her boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who happens to be Marion's former boyfriend. Mingus learns that Marion's family is very open and frank when discussing sex and that Marion and Rose have an often tense relationship. Mingus is forced to bond with Jeannot, including an awkward scene at a Vietnamese massage parlor. Marion's family spends two days living with them in New York and their relationship is ultimately tested.

Like Before Sunset was a more cohesive film than Before Sunrise, 2 Days in New York is a far superior film than 2 Days in Paris. Julie Delpy has now established herself as a working director in her third film (the other was 2009's The Countess). There is also something eerily reminiscent of Woody Allen's early work in this film. Delpy definitely has a knack for crafting dialogue and creating multidimensional characters. She understands that special effects and CGI are not always necessary to tell a beautiful story. There are things better said with words than with images. 2 Days in New York  is a beautiful film about people and relationships. Whether or not we have been in a relationship that has been tested by crazy parents, we all known how hard it can be for an outsider to mix with family dynamics. Like Mingus learned about Marion, we are different when faced with the absurdity that is family. There are rumours that Delpy and Hawke are planning a third installment of the Before Sunrise/Sunset series. While I love Celine and Jesse, I am more in love with Marion. She is flawed and scattered, and I feel more empathy for her as a character. I would love to see how Marion and Mingus' relationship has grown after this film. And I am incredibly glad that Marion is no longer with Jack! 2 Days in New York is unpredictable and often bitingly funny. Julie Delpy rarely gives us a chance to see her on screen (this is only her second film since 2007), but she deserves more respect and admiration for her talent.

My rating: 3.75 stars out of 4.

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