A comedy of manners paced like a classic French farce, Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in New York keeps the entrances, exits, and misunderstandings rolling while rooting the action in emotions and character traits that are only slightly exaggerated for comic effect. Framed as an origin story about their family told by Marion (Delpy) to the daughter born to her and Mingus (Chris Rock) as the story ends, 2 Days in New York picks up a few years after 2 Days in Paris left off, pulling us back in as easily as an old friend after a years-long absence.
Marion, a French artist now living in New York, is as comically intense as ever, always seeming to teeter on the verge of a meltdown. But now she’s past the extended-adolescent ambivalence about settling down that suffused the last film, raising her adorable son from a previous relationship with help from Mingus. Their relationship is so stable that Mingus refers to her visiting family as his in-laws, which is a real testament to his love for Marion given how badly her recently widowed father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy, Julie’s real-life father), her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau, who co-wrote the script), and Rose’s insufferable boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon, also a co-writer) behave from the moment they invade Marion’s big, bright, book-lined apartment. Mingus, who’s the same kind of tolerant-to-a-point, caustically funny family man Rock played on an episode of Louie, makes a good audience proxy, fascinated by the invading French hordes but aghast at their behavior.
Marion spends most of her time waging civil war with her sister, whose ceaseless campaign of passive-aggressive attacks is the most psychologically acute recurring bit in a film full of running gags. Meanwhile, Manu’s casual racism, Rose’s compulsive attempts at seduction, and the boundary-challenged Jeannot’s mind-boggling childishness (he careens through a scene like a geriatric Jack Black, keying strangers’ cars in the street, ogling women at Marion’s yoga studio, or cornering Mingus and trying to tickle him) keep testing Marion’s shallow reserve of patience.
Delpy has an endearing way of finding humor in both “high” and “low” culture: nicely weird cameos by art-house stars like Dylan Baker, Daniel Brühl, and Vincent Gallo, playing a reptilian version of himself as the mephistophelean hipster who buys the soul she sells as a conceptual art piece at her gallery, and an appointment Marion books on the phone by saying, “D like dick, U like uterus, P like penis—no, I’m not being rude! I’m just spelling my name!”
In her scene with Gallo, Delpy gazes into the camera, her face filling the screen, as Marion literally pleads with the actor for her soul. Delicately pretty but stressed to the snapping point, she peers up from under her hooded lids with the mixture of pure vulnerability and canny candor that makes Marion a relatable, loveable, and thoroughly modern American heroine. And that makes Delpy, who also co-wrote the part she played in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, a 21st-century Annie Hall—only one who writes and directs her own roles.