[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the Sundance Film Festival 2012. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's national release.]
I was able to see Sundance's 2 Days in New York at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, Illinois as a part of the Sundance USA Initiative, which screened various Sundance movies in nine cities across the United States on January 26th as a part of the Sundance Film Festival. 2 Days in New York stars Julie Delpy, who also co-wrote and directed the movie, and Chris Rock as a 30-somethings couple living together in New York City. Their relationship gets tested when Marion (Delpy)'s family comes to visit from Paris, France, and French antics ensue.
With lightheartedness, debauchery and lots of French jokes, 2 Days in New York turns the tired old romantic comedy genre into something actually watchable.
2 Days in New York
The movie opens with a narration by Marion performing a puppet show and telling her three year-old son Lulu about how Mommy used to live in France with Daddy (the premise of the movie's prequel, 2 Days in Paris), but then they broke up and now lives in New York with her boyfried, Mingus (Rock) (yes, that is TOO a real name I guess), and his daughter, Willow. She goes on to narrate that Lulu's Grandfather is coming to visit them from Paris along with Lulu's Aunt Rose.
At the airport, Marion's father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy), is held at customs for trying to smuggle in several pounds of sausages and cheese under his clothes. Marion is surprised to learn that her trouble-making sister Rose has arrived with a boyfriend, Manu, who used to date Marion. Mingus meets Marion's family and while things start off well, they degrade quickly as language and cultural barriers spring up, Marion and Rose bicker like children, and Manu constantly tries to buy and smoke weed.
One strength of 2 Days in New York is how funny it is. I'm not usually a big romantic comedy person, but 2 Days in New York has a lot of genuinely funny parts. Albert Delpy (Julie Delpy's father) is amazing as a weird, adorable old French man with little-to-no boundaries, and Rock is surprisingly great in his role as a smart, well spoken public radio host who talks to his cardboard cut-out of Barack Obama in his office for advice. 2 Days in New York not only makes fun of language and cultural barriers almost constantly, but also has a bunch of hilarious scenes about the art world.
Marion is a photographer, and one of the major subplots in the movie is that she has a big solo show at a gallery while her family is visiting. This gives Delpy tons of opportunities to make fun of artists, critics, galleries, etc., and she does it with spot-on humor. At one point, Marion totally flips out on a harsh critic who comes to see her show who thinks that her work is "mundane." Any artist can understand wanting to fly off the handle at someone like that.
For as much fun as 2 Days in New York is, it definitely has its shortcomings. I felt like some of the subplots were relatively weak, specifically the fact that Marion intends to sell her soul through her gallery as a conceptual piece. This idea in and of itself is hilarious, especially in a Sundance context. However, much like Marion's work in the movie, it's not executed all that well. Marion decides to sell her soul because she doesn't believe that it exists, but then freaks out when it actually sells (to actor Vincent Gallo, lolol), and tries to get it back for no other reason than something didn't feel right without it. I mean, I get that it was essentially a turning-point for the character and her building frustration, but it should have been explained or connected to the rest of the movie better. The way it stands, it seems out of place, which is a shame because again, it's a really funny idea.
While 2 Days in New York isn't particularly groundbreaking or eye-dazzling, it is awesome that it was written, directed, starring, and shown in Sundance by a woman director, and that is definitely something to be respected. Overall, 2 Days in New York is a really fun, enjoyable experience, especially if you like French or art jokes, even if the movie isn't entirely memorable.