2 DAYS IN NEW YORK – The Review
Review by Le Movie Snob
I really wanted to like this movie.
I like Julie Delpy.
I like that she took an unexpected Johnny Depp-like career turn upon first becoming successful: she decided not to let her stunning looks lull her into a guaranteed successful, complacent career.
She moved to a foreign country, mastered English, and didn’t just say she was going to direct, she really did direct and wrote a successful screenplay (Before Sunset). And she proved a triple threat: writing directing, and starring in 2 Days in Paris which was a nicely paced, accurately funny depiction of the Franco-American culture clash.
Understandably, I had high expectations for her follow up. Hence, the fall was steep.
Here’s what I wasn’t expecting at all:
I wasn’t expecting to be bored by Chris Rock.
I wasn’t expecting to hate French people.
I wasn’t expecting to see a father-daughter interaction that makes Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s look completely healthy.
2 Days in New York is supposed to pick up the story told in 2 Days in Paris; picking up with Delpy’s character Marion being a single mother to the child she had with Jack (Adam Goldberg). Although broken up, she has stayed in New York and now lives with her new boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock) and his child from a previous relationship. To complete the hipster picture, Marion’s completely pretentious self-portraits are about to go on exhibit in an art gallery and Mingus works for NPR. Why aren’t they living in Brooklyn?
Their life in New York appears happy, albeit chaotic, but not chaotic enough for a movie. She must have taken master screenwriter William Goldberg’s famous advice: reality is neither interesting nor believable. Delpy decides to create drama by fusing her visiting French family with the chaos of New York and her hipster life in it. Cue the Frenchies.
So she is visited by her family: her father (played by her real-life father Albert Delpy), her sister (co-writer Alexia Landau who bears not the slightest resemblence to Delpy), and the sister’s not-really boyfriend (co-producer Alexandre Nahon) who descend on the too small apartment to produce the comedic fusion that surely will result from squabbling family members of different generations and the endless clashes of American vs. French culture.
Unfortunately, the result is not greater than the sum of its parts, although the movie does feel exponentially longer than its 96 minutes. And like a failed science experiment, the result is a big, ugly mess.
While I’m grateful to Mlle Delpy for wanting to let the citizens of her adopted country off the hook by making the French the “ugly tourists,” she went way too far. They are beyond ugly, they are offensive: committing acts of vandalism, asking every black man about “O-ba-MA,” among other reprehensible acts.
They are frankly despicable characters who are capable of making the most liberal American want to order “freedom fries.” I, who regularly and happily, defend the French against the real-life experiences and stereotypes that convince many they are the rudest of all people, cannot defend these characters. I am at a loss as to how Mlle Delpy could think that anyone would find these characters funny in the slightest. And from my experience in France, I can’t imagine the French themselves will find them funny or feel comfortable with these representations of their countrymen. I’m curious what their reaction will be.
Here’s her thinking, as explained to Sheila Roberts of collider.com: “…American perceptions of the French are often inaccurate….[they] see the French as these classy people wearing Chanel all the time.”
(Well that’s my perception of the French, the France I love.) But even I know that’s not a fair nor accurate representation.
“There’s a very strong culture of France that’s not super classy. The dad… [is] a free thinker and a free spirit, something that’s very common in some part of the French…. they’re not puritanical at all.”
Ah, voilà. There it is. The French love to point out how puritanical we Americans are. This is an old, tired, not to mention inaccurate stereotype. But at least it explains how you can direct your own real-life father as he drops his towel and talks graphically about sex.
If her goal was to make us uncomfortable, goal achieved. But it’s not funny, it’s not entertaining, it’s disturbing. Graphic sex talk among family members is not the opposite of puritanisme. Neither are sisters calling each other the “c-word” and becoming physically violent towards each other. Add to this that several of these scenes occur in the presence of children and thoughts of calling CPS preclude any possibility of being entertained.
In her defense, I’m guessing she wanted to make a Woody Allen type movie à la Hannah And Her Sisters. I know the French appreciate and love Woody Allen movies, and we are grateful that you do when most Americans don’t. But shooting a movie in New York is not alchemy; relying on the energy of the city to propel your movie is short-sighted, but understandable when you think yelling + New York skyline = Woody Allen movie.
Unfortunately, this connaissance , and your years of living in LA among transplanted New York film-industry Jews don’t mean you can recreate that special New York feeling, even if you understand all the Yiddishisms. Even Woody Allen can’t make a Woody Allen movie anymore.
On a less, but only slightly, disturbing note, Chris Rock’s character is offensive all on its own.
That their relationship is interracial is never commented on, its silence deafeningly PC. Sadly, the character of Mingus is not allowed to exist racially unscathed. Not only do the ugly Frenchies call him “Obama,” Mingus links himself to the president. There is a cardboard cutout of Obama in his office; he dreams of the day he will get to meet his idol.
I found this offensive. Why can’t a clean cut black man exist on his own merit? I guess that day will come when a gay character is depicted without his or her sexuality mattering, and while we’re on the way, we haven’t arrived at that point either.
Chris Rock proves he can leave his comedic persona behind, not a small feat for most comedians. Unfortunately, he plays the role in neutral, so there’s nothing distinctive about his performance at all.
It’s ironic that a French director did this, when France was the country where American black artists fled so they could be seen as artists by their merit, where their skin color didn’t matter.
C’est vraiment honteux.
1 of 5 Stars
2 DAYS IN NEW YORK Opens in St. Louis today at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Theater
Read more of Barbara Snitzer’s reviews at http://lemoviesnob.com/