Ah, those smelly French. Julie Delpy's manic and sort of unsatisfying "2 Days in New York," which reads like a caffeinated version of a Woody Allen comedy, manages to throw in just about every stereotype about visitors from France:
They don't shower. They smell like sausage. They walk around the living room in the nude even in front of people they barely know. They smoke in elevators, scarf up croissants like snuffling pigs and get into fiery wine-induced arguments at the dinner table.
All this is courtesy of the visiting family of Delpy's artist character, Marion, who turns into a predictably neurotic mess when her father, sister and ex-boyfriend come from Paris to stay with her to attend her big Manhattan art opening. (The Fresno Filmworks presentation plays for two screenings today only at the Tower Theatre.)
Sure, there's humor to be mined here, especially when you throw in Marion's uptight American husband, Mingus (Chris Rock in non-comedian mode), but much of "2 Days in New York" is a standard-issue culture-clash comedy.
Delpy stars in, co-wrote and directed the film, which I'd say is at least one job too many. She's appealing as an actress, and her wry comic timing helps keep the proceedings from becoming standard sitcom territory. (Well, mostly.) And the writing is often sharp, with some good zingers about interracial marriages and the pretentious Manhattan art scene.
But there's a whiny sense of overkill in terms of direction to many of the film's scenes, whether it's Delpy's character bickering with her thoroughly annoying sister (an over-the-top Alexia Landeau) or placating her boisterous ex-hippie father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy, Julie's father, straight out of colorful-old-Frenchman central casting). Communication difficulties abound. (Haven't these people heard of a French-English dictionary?) The ex-boyfriend (Alexandre Nahon in full-fledged annoying mode) is so uncouth and interpersonally insensitive that he strays into caricature territory.
The last third of the film teeters between slapstick, involving a story line about Marion selling her soul as a conceptual art project, and the heartfelt, as Mingus contemplates life without a relationship. It's one of those movies that will either tickle your funny bone or irritate it. Though I did wring some hearty chuckles in a few spare moments, I mostly fall into the latter camp.
"2 Days in New York," rated R for language, sexual content, some drug use and brief nudity. Stars Chris Rock, Julie Delpy, Albert Delpy. Directed by Julie Delpy. A Fresno Filmworks presentation at 5:30 and 8 p.m. today. 96 minutes. In English and French with English subtitles. Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave. Tickets: $10 and $8. Grade: C
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