By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
Once a typical French ingenue, now an experienced filmmaker, Julie Delpy seems determined to stake out her role at the talkier end of the movie spectrum.
She’s probably best known in the U.S. for acting in “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” Richard Linklater’s magical matched pair of conversation films. She also wrote and directed “2 Days in Paris,” a 2007 comedy that seemed inspired by those experiences, even if it never reached their level.
Her new movie, “2 Days in New York,” is a follow-up to that movie, in a way. She plays the same character, but she’s moved to America and settled down with a radio host named Mingus, played by Chris Rock. Each has a kid from a prior relationship, but the main source of the comedy is a visit from her family, a batch of French-fried kooks.
Let’s pause for a moment and note that Chris Rock is sounding a different note from his usual shtick — although not so much that he doesn’t get to use his strengths as a comedian. In fact, he’s the best thing about the movie, mostly playing patient or exasperated reactions while the hurly-burly goes on around him.
He needs to be in good form, because the situations and jokes Delpy has conceived around this family visit are tepid at best. Her father’s lack of inhibition, her sister’s flirtatiousness, and the oddball manner of the sister’s boyfriend (he invites a local pot dealer into the family apartment to drop off some weed) would not pass muster on an average network sitcom.
Even if some of this provides a measure of homely humor — and some of it does — Delpy bungles the final half-hour, concocting a labored dilemma that relies on a bit of physical humor that doesn’t come off at all.
Some of that hinges on her character’s role as a contemporary artist; in her new exhibition, she’s offered her soul as one of the sale items. The buyer (cameo by Vincent Gallo) comes in for a single sequence that reaches for a significance beyond the comedy, and it doesn’t really click.
In the mood and music of the movie, Delpy shows her debt to Woody Allen, an obvious inspiration. Many have gone to New York to make movies with the same debt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in this case, something got lost in translation.
“2 Days in New York” (1½ stars)
Cultures clash when a French artist (Julie Delpy) invites her family to visit her American life, although maybe they don’t clash hard enough, because the movie’s comedy is tepid. Chris Rock is a bright spot as Delpy’s patient beau. It’s a quasi-sequel to Delpy’s “2 Days in Paris,” which she also directed.
Rated: R for language, nudity.
Showing: Guild 45th.