"2 Days in New York" revives a standard of Manhattan cuteness not seen since 1970s Woody Allen. Julie Delpy returns as Marion, the adorably self-deprecating photographer she introduced in her 2007 writing/directing debut, "2 Days in Paris."
There she wrecked a relationship by taking her lover to meet her endearingly dysfunctional family back home in France. Here her visiting relatives occupy her cramped apartment, putting the squeeze on her new relationship with radio host Mingus (Chris Rock). Delpy keeps the entrances, exits, crossed wires and complications bustling as agreeably as a classic French farce. The tempo is somewhere between upbeat and giddy ADHD.
Marion and her boyfriend have the kind of charmed and frenzied work lives and love lives we expect from a Big Apple romantic comedy. She's preparing for a gallery opening that she hopes will put her work on the city's radar. The highlight will be the sale of her soul to the highest bidder, a scandal-courting bit of performance art. Mingus juggles a newspaper job and a call-in radio show. Together they're raising their two young kids from prior relationships.
The precarious balance of their existence gets a serious case of the wobbles with the arrival of Marion's daffy Papa (Albert Delpy, the filmmaker's father) and floozy sister Rose (co-screenwriter Alexia Landeau). Rose's boyfriend, Manu (Alex Nahon), is a pseudo-slick dope who is one of Marion's old beaux. Awkward!
The film offers some zippy, tourist's-eye-view montages of street life, but it's best when it confines the cast in cramped elevators, restaurants or galleries and sets them pinballing off one another. Marion and Rose get into screwball hissing spats in front of wheeler-dealers Mingus wants to impress. Manu is all smarmy amiability as he tries to impress Mingus with faux-hip references to Salt-n-Pepa. At least he speaks a tortured form of English. Marion's Papa backs Mingus into corners and mimes conversations like a portly, superannuated Harpo Marx. Rock delivers one of his best screen performances, simply recoiling in dismay and playing it straight. The pressure builds on Marion until she pops her cork in front of an influential, unpleasant art critic, bursting out with, "Everybody hates you!"
The discord is light and amusing, never souring into bad vibes, thanks to Delpy's sprightly touch. There are interesting throwaway jokes -- Mingus' little daughter becomes the world's only black Goth girl -- and some special guests tucked into the supporting cast. Dylan Baker has a fine, fast cameo as a neighbor who falls under Rose's carefree exhibitionist spell. Indie film fans will get a special kick to see who bought Marion's soul just to have a spare. The ending clatters a bit as Delpy abruptly sums it up with a happily-ever-after finale. It's slight, but it's a delight.
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