Francophiles, beware. 2 Days in New York, the follow-up film to 2007’s 2 Days in Paris, is not your typical France-meets-America movie. Triple threat French filmmaker, writer and lead actress Julie Delpy knocks everything about the oft romanticized French culture of its cliché pedestal. Goodbye, effortless sophistication. Hello, slapdash debauchery. As the film’s protagonists, Delpy and Chris Rock portray Marion and Mingus, a multicultural, interracial New York couple who have found love in a pretty hopeful place. Between the two of them, they have two children from past relationships gone sour. One is an experimental French photographer teetering on the edge of a big break, while the other, born in the U.S. of A., incessantly runs off at the mouth on what seems to be a popular radio show. Mingus and Marion’s mirroring quirks become immediately apparent, their hipster lifestyles gelling seamlessly enough to warrant a swift, mixed-family shack-up after a mere six months of dating.
Only when Marion’s father and sister arrive from France to visit her does the proverbial Pandora’s box emerge. All of Marion’s faux pas contained therein escape and seep into her rosy relationship.
Jeannot, Marion’s father, can only be described as the most jolly, pot-bellied elder south of the North Pole. Still, one’s impulse to coo at his cherubic face and dotting ways comes almost as sporadically as does the hilarity of his sheer randiness. Mingus, who like most men, would not care to discuss his and Marion’s sex life with her father, becomes more and more bewildered by Jeannot’s free-spirited inquiries into his daughter’s bed skills.
Nor is he a fan of Marion’s sister, Rose, whose proclivity for nudity rivals her thoughtless decision to bring Marion’s infantile ex-boyfriend Manu. The Manu who hailed a weed dealer to Mingus and Marion’s home, claimed to give both French sisters their first orgasms, and, despite a language barrier of sorts, still managed to connect Mingus’ name to a favorite oral pastime. Yep. That’s Manu.
What else is a brotha to do, other than lament to a cut-out cardboard of idol President Obama? Mingus’ trauma eventually follows him to sleep, where his perceptions of the family manifests itself into a cannibalistic nightmare.
Needless to say, Marion almost instantly flies off the handles in a short span of two days. Uproarious family dinners and very New Yorker outings to Vietnamese massage parlors and trendy gyms creakily occur throughout a rapidly deteriorating set of emotional events that threaten to tear Mingus and Marion apart. The film’s climax erupts so wonderfully that, faux pas be damned, Delpy’s manic portrayal comes off as one of the most endearing eccentrics since any one of Woody Allen’s beloved headcases.
And assumptions, be damned. Instead of slipping into the familiar Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner trope, where racial tension runs rampant, Delpy opts to focus on cultural tension. Save for several instances of highly plausible, yet inevitably cheapening stereotype, 2 Days in New York exhibits cultures as is, where perceptions forgo pedestals and simply accept differences for the awkward, uncomfortable and revelatory beasts they are.
A romantic indie for sure, both 2 Days films serve up the same amount of lived-in coupledom that appeals to anyone who has ever been in a relationship. The idiosyncratic dialogue, generously seasoned with small splashes of familiar irritation and reconciliatory coitus, is likely to tug on audience heartstrings. In Paris, Marion immerses her (then) white American boyfriend Jack, a delightfully sarcastic sourpuss, into a gratuitous sea of sex, sex and more sex: otherwise known as France. Or is it France through an American tourist’s Ray-Ban lens?
2 Days in New York seems to imply the latter. While Jack quickly wears thin under the seeming lack of social, sexual, and personal boundaries in Marion’s motherland, it is Marion who brilliantly unravels into neurotic shreds when her raucous family brings the motherland to her New York stoop. A true tale of two cities, Delpy’s new film delivers an excellent lesson in relativity.
Patrice Peck explores the complex intersection of culture, entertainment, race and gender as a freelance writer and multimedia maven. Follow her words, flicks and pics on Twitter @SpeakPatrice and visit her Blog for more of her work.