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It used to be that to capture the craziness of New York City on film, it took a native say, Woody Allen or Spike Lee to do it justice. But Julie Delpy, the French actress and now accomplished filmmaker, does a bang-up job in "2 Days in New York," a hilarious and fast-moving farce of strained family relations.
I approached "2 Days in New York" without watching Delpy's 2007 film, "2 Days in Paris," but it didn't seem to matter, as Delpy synopsizes things quite well in her introduction, with puppets. Her character, Marion, is a French-born New York art photographer with a 2-year-old son, Lulu. (Lulu's father, Jack, played in the first film by Adam Goldberg, is absent here.) Marion is living with her boyfriend, Mingus (Chris Rock, who is delightfully deadpan), a Village Voice writer and public-radio host with a zombie-obsessed 7-year-old daughter, Willow (Talen Riley).
The two days of the title, centered on Halloween, are stressful ones for Marion. She's opening a gallery show featuring photos of her past boyfriends and including a performance piece in which she plans to sell her soul (complete with notarized contract). She's also playing host to her rowdy father, Jeannot (played by Albert Delpy, Julie's real-life father), and her sex-starved sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau), and as a surprise to everyone Rose's boyfriend, Manu (Alex Nahon), who used to date Marion, is along for the trip. Manu's unexpected arrival strains the sleeping arrangements, while his obnoxious and slightly racist behavior rankles Mingus and Marion.
Delpy, co-writing with Landeau (with some added material contributed by Nahon), juggles the many oddball characters with the dexterity of a circus juggler. There's a side-splitting dinner-table scene that bounces from Mingus' game attempts to understand Jeannot and Manu's French to Marion and Rose shouting at each other in a sibling-rivalry argument that Woody himself would have been proud to write and is then topped by Manu's move to buy pot from a dealer he brings up to Mingus' and Marion's apartment.
Delpy deftly mixes in some charmingly offbeat moments like Mingus' office monologues, which he delivers speaking to a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama that match Marion's increasingly frazzled life. She also brings a surprising amount of heart, in a masterful performance that sees Marion trying to cope with the death of her mother (played in the first film by Delpy's mother, Marie Pillet, who died in 2009), her feelings for Mingus, and her self-doubt about her art and her life.
She also celebrates the Big Apple, gloriously depicting a melting pot that embraces Asian massage parlors, hipster artists, clueless sightseers, blended families and, yes, French filmmakers. She makes New York, and Marion's crazy life, worth spending more than two days getting to know.
'2 Days in New York'
Julie Delpy' s frantic romantic comedy is also a funny valentine to New York City.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens today Friday, Aug. 24.
Rating • R for language, sexual content, some drug use and brief nudity.
Running time • 96 minutes; in English and in French with subtitles.