'2 Days in New York' Review

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Magnolia Pictures

In life, a first kiss is the beginning of a relationship. In romantic comedies, it's almost always the end of the story. At this point we all just accept that because we've seen it played out onscreen hundreds of times, but isn't it weird? Shouldn't there be more to onscreen romances than that?

If your answer to that question is "yes," then you'll probably enjoy '2 Days in New York,' a romantic comedy about a couple that's way past first kisses. True, the film's jokes are occasionally unfunny and its tone is frequently shrill. But you know what? Life is occasionally unfunny and frequently shrill. This movie understands that.

It was co-written and directed by one of its stars, Julie Delpy, who's best known to American audiences as the female star of Richard Linklater's 'Before Sunrise' (a classic rom-com about the thrill of new love). '2 Days' is a sequel to her 2007 film '2 Days in Paris,' but the new movie is totally accessible to uninitiated viewers (like myself). She plays Marion, a French photographer living happily in New York with her boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock). Each has a child from a previous relationship and together the foursome exist as a unique and loving family unit.

Things are going well at home and at work -- where Marion is preparing for a gallery show of her pictures -- until Marion's family comes from France for a visit. The invasion of her overbearing, obnoxious relatives -- father Jeannot (Albert Delpy, Julie's real-life dad), sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and Rose's boyfriend (and Marion's ex) Manu (Alex Nahon) -- and their European attitudes about sex sends the couple's happy home into turmoil. (Jeannot likes to ask Mingus about sleeping with his daughter, Rose wanders the apartment in the nude.)

There are a few movie-ish twists -- some of them, including a surprising guest at Marion's gallery opening, are shocking and altogether hilarious. And, of course, Marion's family come bearing as many outlandish quirks as swanky Parisian gifts. Still, for the most part, this family's problems are every family's problems: balancing professional and private lives, struggling to keep a relationship fresh after years together, enduring nosy in-laws and grappling with the death of a loved one (Marion struggles with the death of her mother, who was played in the previous film by Delpy's real-life mom, who passed away in 2009). Some might call the film's small-scale drama "slight." I would prefer to describe it as delicate -- even if Jeannot, Rose and Manu are anything but.

The standout in the cast is Rock, playing against type as a radio DJ and writer for The Village Voice. Rock has been a fixture in mainstream movies for more than a decade, but in all that time he's done very little acting -- mostly he just plays variations on "Chris Rock," the fast-talking social satirist of his brilliant stand-up comedy act. '2 Days in New York' is the first time in a very long time I've seen him play a fully formed character, not to mention a straight man. He's not wearing any sort of complicated makeup or fake hair, or putting on any kind of accent, but he's so quiet and down to earth (no 'Heaven Can Wait' remake pun intended) you almost don't recognize him at times. Hopefully it's a sign of more good things to come.

Marion's family is often more irritating than funny, which means the movie is sometimes more irritating than funny as well. But every scene between Delpy and Rock is a keeper. The big climactic gallery opening focuses on a series of photographs of Marion in bed with her past lovers. She tells the gallery's owner the images represent her attempt to explore the way relationships fade over time; she tells a snobby art critic she wanted to turn her personal story into a universal one. In its best moments, '2 Days in New York' does exactly that.

Rating Meter 7

'2 Days in New York' hits theaters Friday, August 10.

Matt Singer is a Webby award winning writer and podcaster. He currently runs the Criticwire blog on Indiewire and co-hosts the Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit podcast. His criticism has appeared in the pages of The Village Voice and Time Out New York and on ‘Ebert Presents at the Movies.’ He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, dog, and a prop sword from the movie ‘Gymkata.’

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