Sequels in the past several years have grown to overwhelming proportions, often times watering down entire franchises. Yet, there have been some that have supported the franchise, supplementing the character arcs and meaningfully expanding story lines to new heights. Although the latter is far more scarce than the former, 2 Days in New York effortlessly falls into the latter. Like its predecessor, 2 Days in Paris, the film reveals a relationship that is heavily tested by the cultural differences between America and France, and spreads the conflict across forty-eight seemingly long hours.
Marion (Julie Delphy) has moved to New York with her child, Lulu, and is now living with Mingus (Chris Rock), who shares custody of his child with his ex-wife. Marion’s father Jeannot (Albert Delpy) and sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) arrive from Paris to see her new photography gallery opening, where the central piece is a contract for control of her soul, which is on sale. Rose’s new boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who happens to also be one of Marion’s exs, has tagged along on the trip. Marion’s family seems to be more rambunctious that normal, especially after the recent death of Marion’s mother.
Somewhere safely between a dark comedy and a screwball, 2 Days in New York continues the sentiment of culture clashes and fighting for a relationship amid an eccentric family that teases far too much. Marion’s family mocks Mingus’ his name for its similarities to cunnilingus, and they also make stereotypical remarks such as the assumption that Mingus, a black male, must obviously like decades-old rap and hip hop songs. Marion’s previous love affairs were also a central conflict in 2 Days in Paris, and to have her former boyfriend Manu not only visit New York, but also dating her sister heightens the screwball elements and potential kinetic energy.
The fate of her boyfriend from the previous film, Jack (Adam Goldberg) is only portrayed during and expositive puppet show to link the two films’ premises together; that Lulu was born and Marion and Jack have separated. Mingus is a political radio personality whose not all that different than Jack. Their facial hair and liberal political leanings are far too similar, and helps connect Marion’s story across the two films. Mingus also has a life-sized cardboard cutout of President Barak Obama, of which Mingus often converses with to gain a better perspective on the intruding stress of the past two days.
The eccentricities of Marion’s family have returned, particularly Jeannot’s pension for keying cars improperly or rudely parked on the street. In fact, seeing so much of Jeannot in this sequel makes me wish he was a larger presence in 2 Days in Paris, which I had a chance to watch after New York on Netflix. The relationship between Rose and Manu is fun to watch, especially as Rose, a child psychologist, loves to wear skimpy nightwear. They wind up childishly enjoying a joint in the apartment building’s elevator, infuriating another resident who in-turn threatens Marion with squealing to the landlord.
Noted earlier, Marion is selling her soul as a conceptual art piece, a drastic difference from the rest of her gallery pieces; lackluster self-photos on her bed. This sub-plot reminds me of an old Simpsons episode from the show’s golden age, and the conclusion is roughly the same. Marion is having a difficut time with the stress of selling her soul and her family’s hijinks, but she wonders if the stress is caused by another factor. With the advice of a advertisement in a store window, she thinks she ruled out hormones gone haywire after taking a pregnancy test, expecting results to be instant. This event continues her hypochondria from the previous film.
Chris Rock pulls off one of his best performances, one that channels the rationality of a man who is on the brink of having to deal with far too much. Like Jack, he pulls off some of the best one-liners, most of which are observational notes on French culture. Delphy accurately reprises her role as a relatable female whose past affairs with men have tested her present-day relationships. Again, Albert Delphy as Jeannot provides an overwhelming amount of physical and verbal gags, most of which exacerbates the cultural differences; his performance is charming and hilarious, even if the rational viewer continuously sides with Mingus, the most rational of all characters.
Two Days in New York eventually wraps itself up rather well since the film is rife with so much eccentricity and quirk. What we have here is another chapter in Marion’ life. She has graduated from moving from lover to lover, has settled down somewhat now that she and Mingus have children to rear. Despite the film’s central conflict of culture clashes and family misadventures, there is something lighthearted about the film that makes it easy to see past the heavy nature and laugh at the many one-liners, most often delivered by Rock. Perhaps Delphy could humor us with another chapter in Marion’s life in the next few years.