Sometimes you can’t move forward without going backwards, as the saying goes. In Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in New York, the unprompted but not unwelcome continuation of the charming-but-flat 2 Days in Paris, that saying comes to life.
2 Days in New York continues the story of Delpy’s barely-hinged-lunatic photographer, Marion, and her adorably psychotic family a few years later, as the dust has finally settled from Marion and Jack’s nightmare visit to Paris.
Jack (Adam Goldberg) is old news by now, replaced by the solid and comforting would-be radical liberal journalist Mingus (Chris Rock). Though Jack and Marion had a child together before his departure, his biggest contribution to their lives of late is teaching their son, Lulu (Owen Shipman), to call Mingus “fake daddy” in a petulant bid for revenge for the balloon picture, if not other things.
If Mingus has posed for the balloon picture during his time with Marion, it escapes us, but it’s not needed anyway. Rock brings enough to the table without succumbing to the cheap laugh. Like Adam Sandler before him, Rock is a perfect fit for the dramatic-comedic role and, again like Sandler, you sort of wonder why he’s wasted his time on so many bad comedies in the past. Money, of course, since even his biggest flop will dramatically outgross this brave little effort, but there is an injustice in that.
Marion’s family is in town this time, visiting for her latest photography exhibit, and the same type of mayhem ensues as happened in Paris as her family, especially her papa Jeannot (Albert Delpy) descends on the island smuggling sausage and keying expensive cars again.
The exhibit centers around a showpiece of Marion selling her soul to the highest bidder — I won’t spoil the buyer, but it’s a supremely interesting cameo — to gain some publicity for her photographs. It’s a bit blunt, of course, but a worthwhile scene as Marion drives towards the edge of her sanity and she and Mingus begin to drift apart as he wonders if the woman he’s been living with for years is the shame and Marion is really this mad lady.
Like 2 Days in Paris before it, there is something ever so slightly off about 2 Days in NY, something holding it back from actually achieving the small, indie greatness it strives for, instead landing comfortably at very good. It’s a dedication to laughs, or family, or dialogue perhaps, or just an inclination to the small bits of life rather than the sweeping moments that holds it back, but 2 Days in New York feels different than 2 Days in Paris too. It feels necessary, as a story, as a statement about Julie Delpy’s position as an artist, and Marion’s, and as an extension of grief from the loss of her mother, Marie, who featured so prominently in 2 Nights in Paris. That need is conveyed clearly, both directly in Marion’s grief, and indirectly by her father’s presence, seeing a man not quite lost, but only because he has no time for nostalgia. But it’s landing at very good may be more meaningful and true to Delpy’s story anyway.