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Reel Women: ’2 Days in New York’

Magnolia Pictures

’2 Days in New York,’ Julie Delpy’s follow-up to ’2 Days in Paris,’ her 2007 romantic dramedy, is much more humorous than its predecessor but lacks the punch of exploring neuroses in relationships. And perhaps that’s because ’2 Days in New York’ examines the way a relationship works rather than the ways in which it falls apart — and that’s okay, too.

Delpy wrote, directed, and stars in both ’2 Days in Paris’ and ’2 Days in New York.’ In the former, her character Marion — a French photographer with an abnormality in her eye that obscures parts of her vision — takes her boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg) to Paris to visit her family, but the appearance of her ex-boyfriends ignites neuroses between the two, with Jack believing Marion to be much more sexually promiscuous than he wanted to believe and Marion examining whether or not she can hold two things together that are pulling apart. It’s a lovely, quirky exploration of the ways in which a relationship devolves, starting with the simplest spark of an idea that quickly grows into a weed and takes over everything that was once vibrant and alive. The film’s final act features a long argument between the two as they realize they’re breaking up — an argument that, like Marion’s vision, is obscured, but here it’s with the use of a voice over from Delpy who explains, from her perspective, the way the argument unfolded and the aftermath.

Like Marion, Delpy has matured in the five years between Paris and New York. There are still some fantastic sequences combining a photographic style with a stop-motion approach to create a montage of moments, but she dials back the voice over that often felt intrusive in Paris. ’2 Days in New York’ is a grown-up film that exhibits more polish in style and tone, although it does feel as though it lacks some of the intimacy of the first.

’2 Days in New York’ opens with Marion explaining that she’s had a son with Jack, but they split up (the film implies they rekindled their relationship after the events of ‘Paris’) and her son still sees his father, who also lives in New York. Marion is now dating Mingus (Chris Rock), a co-worker at the Village Voice, and someone who was there for her — perhaps opportunistically, though Marion notes this and doubts that it matters — when her relationship with Jack was unraveling, and thanks to a recent pregnancy, her emotions were all over the place. Mingus comes with baggage of his own — a daughter from a previous marriage — but the two have a lovely relationship and a way of communicating that feels so natural and lived-in.

But when Marion’s recently widowed father and her selfish sister Rose come to visit, Marion and Mingus’ relationship is put to the test. ’2 Days in New York’ hints at the opportunity to revisit the neuroses of the past when Rose brings Manu, Marion’s ex and Rose’s current boyfriend, along for the visit, unannounced and unwelcome. Where Marion has her life (mostly) together, Rose has seemingly gotten worse. Forever feeling competitive with her sister, she brings along the ex to rub in Marion’s face, as if to say she can do just as well. She flaunts her body around Mingus and gets too close to him when she speaks, tempting him in a way that might be testing his faithfulness, but is really nothing more than Rose’s desperation to prove that she is just as desirable as her sister and she can have all the same things Marion has had if she wants them.

The tables are turned slightly this time around when Marion, perhaps weakened mentally by the presence of her family, becomes jealous of Mingus’ casual — and harmless — flirting with callers on his radio show. But even that is so quickly resolved and dismissed, and when Mingus hilariously talks to a Barack Obama cardboard standee, trying to talk out whether he should stay in the relationship or leave, it doesn’t feel genuine. There doesn’t seem to be any real possibility of heartbreak like there was with Jack in Paris.

And while Chris Rock certainly brings the funny in this film (his interactions with Marion’s French-speaking father are priceless), perhaps its that comedic inclination that keeps him from feeling like he has a bad bone in his body. Never is there a feeling that he’ll seriously walk out on Marion. There’s an anticipation, following ’2 Days in Paris,’ that this film will similarly explore deterioration in progress, but instead, it explores the opposite. And once you embrace that this film isn’t about struggling to keep two things together that don’t belong together, but rather about showing us how these two things are together and how they work together, ’2 Days in New York’ becomes quite a lovely pill to swallow.

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