The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


2 Days in New York

If you took all the comedies about wacky families and piled them on top of each other, you'd probably end up with a stack that stretched well into the stratosphere. Still, it's a genre that always has the potential to work, if done with sincerity and inventiveness. 2 Days in New York, director/star Julie Delpy's follow-up to her 2007 film 2 Days in Paris, illustrates that there's plenty of life left in the idea. Don't worry that it's a quasi-sequel; you needn't have seen the first one to understand it (I didn't), and the few things you ought to know are recapped in the opening minutes. Just sit back and watch a really funny take on how dealing with eccentric relatives can be a nightmare.

Delpy plays Marion, a single mom who lives with her boyfriend, single dad Mingus (Chris Rock). Her father Jeannot (Albert Delpy, Julie's real-life father) and sister Rose (Alexia Laneau) journey from France to the Big Apple to visit, as well as to meet Mingus for the first time. Trouble starts almost immediately when Jeannot is held at the airport by customs for trying to smuggle sausage and cheese into the United States. Rose has also invited along her boyfriend Manu (Alex Nahon), who used to be Marion's boyfriend. During the course of their 48 hour visit, Rose clashes with Marion over long-held grudges, Manu invites a shady character to the apartment, and Jeannot engages in creepy-jolly behavior that deeply unnerves Mingus.

The humor in 2 Days in New York is often outrageous, but still grounded in some sense of reality, which is what makes it funny. One of the biggest laughs revolves around an unfortunate sexual encounter in a bathroom, and there's a funny recurring bit about Manu's lack of understanding of African-American culture. (Upon meeting Mingus, he starts quoting Salt-n-Pepa lyrics.) Rather than going for forced, prefabricated laughs, Delpy - who also co-wrote the screenplay - draws on legitimate observations of human behavior. She recognizes the idiosyncrasies of human beings and reflects them back to us in a way that is identifiable. In doing this, the film gets at a universal truth: everyone knows how to deal with their own crazy family, but dealing with the crazy family of your significant other takes some real adjustment. Mingus loves Marion, yet he struggles to grasp what a lifetime with her relatives would mean.

2 Days in New York's best joke is, ironically, the one that's most manufactured. I won't blow it, but trust me when I say that it's a doozy. Marion, an up-and-coming artist, has a plan to sell her soul to the highest bidder during an exhibition of her work. It's her way of making an artistic statement. This subplot has a hilarious payoff that will be to devotees of independent cinema what the Bill Murray stuff in Zombieland was to mainstream viewers.

Where the film has problems is in its episodic nature. There's no real plot to speak of, just a series of scenes in which some characters behave badly, while others become exasperated. It might have benefited from some sort of through-line that tied everything together. I was never bored, but there were moments when I wished the picture was a little more structured. As things stand, it's all a bit scattershot, which makes the 96-minute running time occasionally feel drawn out.

While that bothered me, the pleasures of 2 Days in New York are still substantial. Aside from the aforementioned laughs and thematic interest, you get surprisingly good chemistry between Delpy and Rock. I never would have thought to put these two together, yet they work delightfully. Additionally, this may be Rock's finest screen work to date. His performance is controlled, layered, and very funny. 2 Days represents one of the few films to make good use of his comic perspective. See it for him, for Delpy, and for the witty insights into how the people we love most drive us most crazy.

( out of four)

2 Days in New York is rated R for language, sexual content, some drug use and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

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