2 Days in New York
2 Days in Paris was a piece of largely derivative cinema but it was a darling enough experience that you didn’t mind. Delpy had some success with Before Sunrise and loved the work of Woody Allen; so for her directorial debut why should she not attempt to replicate the romance and casual conversations of the former in the comedic style of the latter?
The Before series had a sequel and so now its simulacrum does too, but where will she set it? What European countries are left? Where else but the city love of its leading stylistic influence Woody Allen, Manhattan? Though whereas Sunset set its characters up in a situation slavishly similar to the original and then had them speak to just how hard it is to recapture the lightning of love inside a now antique bottle, New York simply shows us; demonstrating in depth the law of diminishing returns.
The film opens with the cinematic equivalent of a ‘Previously On…’ sequence in which Delpy’s character puts on a puppet show for her son Lulu (Yes she has a son now) to tell him of everything that has happened over the past five years, some of which is shocking and none of which really syncs with what we knew of the pair from Paris. During a later argument with her partner Delpy’s Marion is accused of having hidden her insanity all these years, that she is normally so normal and this is an interesting idea but one that is never again hinted at.
The biggest surprise is that while the fairy returns from the original lead actor Adam Goldberg doesn’t, the protagonist is simply gone. See, though Delpy scripted the first film as well as directing it she never stressed Marion as the starring role, in fact it was Goldberg’s Jack that we followed, that had the focus and. He was the entrance point and the one we empathized with while she was… well let’s just say that if a man had directed the movie people would have cried misogyny.
His replacement is a rather interesting choice, Chris Rock of all people, but his Mingus is presented the same frustrated straight man role to play without any of the traits needed to make him an interesting protagonist. He downplays his usual demeanor, perhaps a little too much for this ‘serious’ role, but half of Goldberg’s charm came from the fact that he was just as fucked up as everybody else, only in ways we Westerners could relate too.
Speaking of the cultural divide, Delpy still digs into this ditch for the majority of the film’s humor; this time by having her French family (her real family and the breakout stars of the first film) come to stay in the US of A. I don’t know if it’s due to repetition or simply poorer writing but having the French as the fish out of wine doesn’t work nearly as well as the inverse did, perhaps because this is something we have seen so many times before in other ‘bad’ comedies.
There are a few inspired ideas here though: for one the imaginary Obama cameo would have been cool enough on its own but thanks to current affairs concerning Clint Eastwood it was strangely relevant today and more hilarious for it, then there is Vincent Gallo’s suitably surreal real cameo and the sheer absurdity of the ending that has to at least be admired for trying something big in an otherwise constrictingly small movie.
Not being as funny as the first film is fine, not being as fascinating with its characters and concepts is more crippling but the final blow is that it lacked any France whatsoever and there was nowhere near enough of New York to fill the void. Paris was a this star in Paris but the big apple only has a cameo here; the majority of the film set inside a small apartment set instead, probably because it is more expensive to shoot here than there. Though the few familiar streets and buildings that you do see made me suitably nostalgic for the place, so that is something.
Overall though this 2 Days film was just a blandly unpleasant experience. The former made you cringe, stressed, distressed and maybe even cry but it tempered these with laughter and together the dueling emotions took you on a journey just as the camera did; you and Jack journeying into the unknown together, just like a real trip overseas. New York though is just like having dirty and despairingly indulgent in-laws over to stay and honestly that simply not an experience I really want to replicate, especially if I can’t care about the central character that I am trapped there with. Today also saw the announcement that Delpy and Hawke are currently at work on a third Before script, I hope that this doesn’t mean a third 2 Days in…