2 Days in New York (2012)
★★ / ★★★★
Mingus (Chris Rock) and Marion (Julie Delpy) live together in a New York City apartment with their children from previous relationships. Mingus is a writer and talk-radio host and Marion is an artist and they consider themselves to have a pretty stable life. However, their current state of equilibrium is disrupted when Marion’s father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy), and sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau), come to visit and offer their support for the biggest art exhibit Marion’s has had in years. It doesn’t make it any better that Rose decides to bring her current boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who, like Rose, is a slave to his impulses.
“2 Days in New York,” based on the screenplay by Julie Delpy and Alexia Landeau, begins with great comic timing in that it seems willing to take advantage of the fact that its lead actors know how to handle fast-paced dialogue without losing track that they constantly need to exude charm so the audience can overlook their more unlikable eccentricities while at the same time delivering proper dosages of irony so the material can function as a character study. Unfortunately, it drops the ball somewhere before Marion’s big night as it sacrifices the awkward but believable chuckles for drama that feels forced, draining, and not at all funny.
When the film is unafraid to explore potentially offensive issues, it is exciting to watch because it feels open to possibilities. The issue of Marion and Mingus being an interracial couple is touched upon but I felt at times that it could have pushed the envelope a little further. Most of its humor involves the African-American character being weirded out by the visiting white French relatives because of their habits like being quick to offer an opinion when not asked, being very open when it comes to talking about sex, and being unafraid to be physical with one another. The rapid-fire discoveries that Mingus finds himself in the middle of is a great source of amusement. However, the French relatives aren’t given equal chance to show their reactions when they think that something about the African-American culture is strange. I felt slightly annoyed when I noticed the picture holding back the blows when it is the other way around. Isn’t the point to show that everyone can’t help but judge?
While the marital struggle between Marion and Mingus is engaging initially, it becomes a victim of diminishing returns. This can be attributed to the screenplay attempting to make its characters less aware than they really are for the sake of the mechanisms in the plot. It is obvious that Mingus and Marion are smart people very early on. It is unusual—and extremely frustrating—that they are unable to reason and act like responsible adults when things turn critical. The childish behaviors that make the second half feel so contrived do not match the original characteristics of the couple.
Directed by Julie Delpy, “2 Days in New York” might have been stronger if it had turned more inwards, working through the intricate details of the drama in order for the comedic punches, once they arrive, to have more impact, instead of being too showy with its influences. For a work that is supposed to reflect reality, about half of it comes across as disingenuous.