It’s a premise most filmgoers are familiar with: Take a neurotic, bespectacled, New York artist and put them through the paces — work, friends and family — and wait for the giggle-worthy results. Nothing new there — until you find out that it’s not legendary auteur Woody Allen behind the camera, but French actress Julie Delpy. As co-writer, director and star of 2 Days in New York, she offers more surprises than you might expect from this simple yet charming indie.
Delpy stars as Marion, a divorced mom who is living with a divorced dad, charmingly underplayed by Chris Rock. As Marion steels herself for an upcoming photo exhibit, her life is turned upside down by a visit from her Parisian family. Her trouble-making dad (Delpy’s real father, Albert), her exhibitionist sister Rose (co-writer Alexia Landeau) and Rose’s brazen boyfriend (Alex Nahon) all cram into Marion’s apartment for the comedy of errors.
Most North American audiences know Delpy from her work in indie films of the late ’90s and that’s a perfect reference for viewers of this film. Like the charmingly dirty Friends With Kids from earlier this year, 2 Days in New York plays out like the best kind of ’90s indie flick. It’s as though it took more than a decade to iron out that genre’s wrinkles. The script is tighter, the acting is better and the look is just a bit more polished, but the film never loses its indie charm.
Behind the camera Delpy is like a Nouvelle Vague Woody Allen, peppering the rather straight-up filmmaking with some curious jump cut montages. The film’s style, though, is secondary to the characters. All charming in their inability to get it together, they’re barely more than stereotypes, but their scenes are funny enough and the performances strong enough to forgive that.
On screen, Delpy is lovely as always and seems more natural than ever, but Rock is equally fun to watch. Maybe he’s digging deep to show off his acting chops, or maybe it’s just Delpy’s willingness to let him play a character instead of someone mugging his way through an Adam Sandler movie. Either way, he hasn’t been this nuanced in a movie since Nurse Betty (another charming indie, come to think of it).
The film does build to a goofy climax and there’s no denying the metaphors (visual and otherwise) are a bit tired, but even so, 2 Days in New York is a good little film. That’s not damning with faint praise, either. It’s intended with all due sincerity. They may not make ’em like 1996 anymore, but 2 Days in New York is proof that they should.