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Pity Julie Delpy, if the actress/auteur indeed writes what she knows. Her latest creation, 2 Days in New York, is an even more chaotic screed than her nearly unwatchable 2007 film, 2 Days in Paris. Both feature her character, a Frenchwoman named Marion who lives in Manhattan, and her current relationship. Both involve visits with Marion’s certifiable family, which includes an especially crazy father played by Delpy’s own. And both feel like Woody Allen on speed, only with neuroses flipped into cocksureness and everyone bickering, bickering, bickering until you want to reach into the screen and punch them all in the face. It’s nails on a fucking chalkboard.
If that’s your kind of thing, then Delpy’s a maestro. 2 Days in New York opens by explaining how Marion became involved with Mingus (Chris Rock, the calmest presence here), her co-worker and confidant when she broke up with her boyfriend from the previous movie. They quickly moved in together, each with a child from their former romances. Marion’s a photographer getting ready for a big gallery exhibit. (One of the items up for sale? Her soul.) Mingus is a radio-show host getting ready for a visit from Marion’s father Jeannot (Albert Delpy) and sister Rose (Alexia Landeau, who gets a co-scripting credit). But the couple are surprised when Rose brings along her dirtbag boyfriend and Marion’s ex, Manu (Alex Nahon). They all stay, in various degrees of comfort, in Marion and Mingus’ apartment. (“Where will I jerk off?” Dad asks. Charming.)
The family’s stay is all language barriers, racially ignorant remarks, epic quarreling, and general buffoonery. Jeannot is especially grating: Albert’s either a really, really good actor or really, really insane. He is a close-talking, TMI old man in a bushy, Claude Monet beard who likes to key cars, bug his eyes out, and generally resemble a demented Santa. Rose and Manu act like teenagers, too, with the former traipsing around the apartment nearly or completely naked and both of them smoking pot (that Manu bought from a stranger he invited to Marion’s place) in the residence’s elevator with no regard for the non-French-speaking neighbor riding with them. It’s pandemonium.
Rock’s Mingus is the only likeable presence here, a generally noncombative foil to the out-of-control relatives. But in tamping down his characteristic mania behind thick nerd glasses, Rock unfortunately muffles his humor, too. Marion, meanwhile, is argumentative, unreasonable, childish, and a borderline negligent parent. (In 2 Days in Paris, she was merely a self-involved floozy.)
Why Delpy would write such an irredeemably unpleasant character for herself is a mystery. She may be attempting to capture an uglier, anti-Rockwellian side of family life and relationships, but she’s stepped past the line of reality into caricature; having unrealistically childish people yell at each other for an hour and a half isn’t exactly the stuff of social enlightenment. At the end of the film, Marion proclaims it a love story. If that’s true, I never want to see a love story again.