A nightmare in which the dreamer imagines himself as a chicken ready to be eaten, a woman selling her soul, (actually) and a couple that may or may not be using an electric toothbrush (of a man they just met, mind you) during sex make of some of the very dislikable and neurotic characters in Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in New York.
In a sequel of sorts to Ms. Delpy’s 2007 exploration into family and relationships, 2 Days in Paris, she here finds herself again as Marion, a woman with manic pixie moments now with a new boyfriend (Chris Rock) and her deranged French family en route from the motherland.
With three characters coming across the ocean to visit, the title suggests that either the host family or the guests, made up of Marion’s father (Delpy’s real life papa), her sister Rose and the latest beau Rose has targeted, a smarmy gent named Manu who liaised with Marion in the past, may not survive.
Quite easily the worst familial invaders seen in some time, their antics go from funny to uncomfortable in a New York minute. The father, having been delayed at customs for sneaking in sausage and cheese to America, speaks no English and laughs boisterously at everything. Rose, at times in a towel, pants-less, or falling out of her shirt, bickers constantly and intimidates Marion’s hapless husband Mingus. Manu, meanwhile, when not colluding with Rose, requests at home deliveries of drugs, a topic of some issue with Marion and Mingus what with them having kids around.
“They don’t have grass in France,” Mingus explains to his curious daughter as she watches the exchange, one of the few genuinely funny and heartfelt moments in a movie that is so odd, so random, and so casually crass it makes you raise your eyebrows when not wanting to squeeze your eyes shut entirely and hide.
What has to be an amalgamation of Delpy’s clearly hectic family life (or maybe just wild imagination), the film begins with a curious premise but devolves into a series of lies, diatribes, and awkward incidents. In fact, one of the most normal conversations takes place between Mingus and a cardboard cutoff of a beaming President Obama.
Sisterly drama, fatherly stubbornness, and silent hatred towards in-laws runs throughout a movie that is ultimately about Marion trying to survive her hectic New York life as a girlfriend, mother, stepmother, artist, sister, and daughter (and tenant, as you will see in a scene with maybe the most absurd premise of the movie). The invasion of the French connection starts to ruin the lives personal and professional of the couple, especially Mingus, a journalist and radio host looking to get a chat with his pal Barry, and things get uncomfortable.
There is much cultural clashing comedy and familial invasion to speak to a vast array of people, but Delpy tries to push further, attempting to make the film into something more meaningful. It builds up to Marion’s art exhibit, one in which she will sell her soul to the highest bidder, but that moment and her subsequent uncertainty offers no catharsis or levity—just head scratching humour.
It is an interesting peek at a world that is true to multi-cultural New York living, but nothing more. Like Mingus, who losses his space, his toothbrush, and his mind while entertaining his French-speaking guests, we as the audience get sucked too far to escape with our sanity, and our dignity.