Magnolia Pictures // 2012 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // January 8th, 2013
"Two unforgettable days of family mayhem."
2 Days in Paris arrived as Julie Delpy's first major foray into the world of being a triple threat as writer/director/actress (her first, Looking for Jimmy didn't make nearly as big a splash). Though it was a bit quirky for some, 2 Days in Paris established Delpy's light comedic style. It's no surprise, then, that she chose to return to that world following a darker foray into the life of Countess Bathory. Those who enjoyed the previous film will likely find something to appreciate in its sequel, 2 Days in New York, while she'll likely win new fans with the brilliant decision to cast Chris Rock.
Reprising her role from 2 Days in Paris, writer/director Julie Delpy plays Marion, a French woman who met a man in Paris and had a baby. 2 Days in New York opens five years later. Marion is now living in New York City with her son and a new partner, Mingus (Chris Rock, Down to Earth) and his daughter Willow (Talen Riley, Imagine That) from a previous marriage. Marion is about to have her biggest photography show in years, so her father (Albert Delpy, Julie's father) and sister (Alexia Landeau, Marie Antoinette) come over from Paris, with the unexpected Manu (Alex Nahon, 2 Days in Paris) along for the ride.
Julie Delpy has apparently earned some credit somewhere, because she has gathered together a fantastic cast, from lead Chris Rock to a brief appearance by Dylan Baker as a concerned neighbor. Delpy and her fictional family ride a fine line between playing unique characters and inhabiting notable "types." The writing is solid enough that things like the prototypical rivalry between the sisters works because Rose can ask to borrow a dress from Marion and then sell a line like "It's two sizes too big, but I'll wear a belt." All of the cast are obviously on board with the film's slightly manic approach to comedy as well. Alexia Landeau doesn't mind playing up the exhibitionism (and neither does Albert Delpy), while Chris Rock mostly gets to sit back and lob wry observations.
All this leads to quite a bit of humor, much of it borne out of moments the audience can relate to. Whether it's the fish-out-of-water difficulties encountered by being a foreigner, or the more intimate problems of juggling a blended family with biological family. Perhaps more importantly, there's a bit of pathos in the whole project. Though it's first and foremost a comedy, the film isn't afraid to try to say something about the importance of balancing self and family, whether that family is chosen or biological.
The film is served well by 2 Days in New York (Blu-ray). The 1.85:1/1080p AVC-encoded image is strong without being excessive. Detail is generally fine, colors pop appropriately, and no significant digital artefacts crop up. There are a few night scenes that appear to have been shot with more modest equipment and they're noisier than the rest of the film. However, interiors and bright exteriors have none of these problems. The DTS-HD 5.1 track keeps the dialogue -- French and English -- easily audible. Even my very basic ear for French could catch individual words easily, and subtitles are included. The film uses music (much of it by Delpy) to great effect, and some of the outdoor scenes have pleasing ambiance through the surrounds.
Extras kick off with a 22-minute interview with Julie Delpy, who talks extensively about the making of the film, from its relationship to the previous film to casting Chris Rock and working as both an actress and a director in the same scene. Chris Rock is up next for a 5-minute interview that discusses his involvement in the project, and though he doesn't get much time he's his usual funny self. Both figures appear again in a series of shorter interview from Sundance, along with contributions from Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon, and Albert Delpy. These interviews aren't extensive, but they're amusing enough for a look. There's also a 5-minute EPK-style piece that takes pieces of the Delpy/Rock interviews and mixes them with footage from the film. It would be fine if we didn't get the full interviews already, but with them it's totally unnecessary. Finally, the film's trailer is included.
Not everything about the film works, though. In a scene glimpsed in the trailer, Jeannot keys a stretch Hummer with Manu by his side and then the two of them grin manically and dash away. It works in the trailer to suggest an impish sense of humor, a French version of sticking it to the gas-guzzling American man. In the film, however, this little scene feels completely unconnected from the narrative. The family exits a restaurant; Manu and Jeannot lag behind, and then key the car before running away. It doesn't reinforce any anti-American sentiment (of which there is little in the film), nor does it fit into any coherent anti-capitalist criticism. It's literally Jaennot being a total jerk for no apparent reason and being pleased with himself for it. That kind of characterization runs rampant throughout the film. Everyone in the film, if you were to actually know them personally, is distressingly unlikeable -- with the possible exception of Chris Rock. Sure Rose and Jeannot are more charming than they are destructive, but the film walks a strange line where their behavior is way outside the norm, but not so crazy as to be absurdly funny. Instead, there's an awkward tension around the characters' behavior that might make the film hard to stomach for those with real family troubles.
The scene also highlights the extent to which 2 Days in New York is a film made in the editing room. Of course every film is, but there's something a big ragged about much of 2 Days, like it was composed out of improv, and not necessarily in a good way. I give Delpy major points for experimenting with style, especially her voiceover and transition montages, but much of the film includes too many little scenes like Jeannot's keying that feel too brief and unconnected.
Finally, 2 Days in New York is not a film for prudes. There's a bit of nudity, male and female, and several frank discussions of sex. There's a rather strange comic scene where Rose insists that they measure Marion's son's penis to ensure he's developing properly (since Rose works as a child psychologist, she's worried about his progress). It's the kind of scene that would be very, very strange in a mainstream American film but somehow fits the slightly Parisian flavor of the film perfectly.
2 Days in New York is not an easy film to categorize; it's meant to be a bit uncomfortable. Those looking for a quirky comedy about transatlantic familial difficulties will likely enjoy the film, as will those who enjoy Chris Rock's performances. Those who dislike frank sexuality or gets easily frustrated by bad behavior will want to look elsewhere.
I probably wouldn't want to spend two days with it, but the film is not
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R