2 Days in New York: Hysterical Humour

Chris Rock plays straight man to writer/director/star Julie Delpy in this uneven but charming romantic comedy. Is Delpy a proto-Lena Dunham model of feminine self-parody, or are we overthinking it?


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What it is: A grown-up romantic comedy with passing knocks at the art world and French people.

Target audience: People who will watch anything with Julie Delpy in it.



I have a good friend with inexplicable taste who, way back in the day, expressed a keen interest in seeing the Chuck Norris canine buddy-cop movie Top Dog. When the rest of us, baffled, demanded to know why, he replied with sublime simplicity, “I like Chuck Norris, and I like dogs.”

Though quite a different kind of film, 2 Days in New York is kind of like that. It’s not a great movie, but if you like Julie Delpy and you like Chris Rock, then you’re bound to get some enjoyment out of it.

A sequel to writer/director/star Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris (2007), the new film finds the original’s love interest (Adam Goldberg) an offscreen, bitterly divorced ex-husband. Marion (Delpy) now lives with Mingus (Rock), with a child from each of their former marriages. And their tiny New York apartment is about to be invaded by Delpy’s French family — rascally dad Jeannot (her real-life dad Albert Delpy), flaky sister Rose (Alexia Landau) and ex-boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who’s cheesy and sleazy in that special way that French men can be, and is now dating Rose.

Mingus, needless to say, has to deal with cultural differences on top of the usual in-law issues, and in that way that people are allowed to say about their own culture what outsiders can’t, Delpy does a good-hearted but incisive inside hit job on some salient aspects of the French character, from their sexual politics to their personal hygiene. Rock looks quite out of place in all this, which is surely part of the point. He doesn’t really get a chance to let loose comedically; he’s more of a straight man for Delpy’s hysterical humour.

My critical brethren have been quite rough on 2 Days in New York, but I’m not sure why their reactions are so harsh. With all the kerfuffle over Lena Dunham’s autobiographical-but-self-parodying approach in Girls, Delpy surely deserves a shout-out as an elder stateswoman. Like Dunham, she’s wholly unafraid to make her own character look ridiculous, pretentious, unstable and just plain unlikeable. And not to play the male-feminist card (I always find those types a bit suspicious, though I know that’s old-fashioned and probably just plain wrong), but it seems that women don’t get quite the same leeway as men in the comedic department.

It’s true that there are elements of the film that just don’t work. There’s a whole subplot about Delpy’s conceptual art career that seems totally half-baked (though it does lead to a pretty hilarious celebrity cameo), and a couple of the comic bits could have been trimmed. But if you’re a fan, Delpy’s charm makes it enjoyable. ■

2 Days in New York opens Aug. 17


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