Anyone who's wandered into Hialeah and tried to order a cafecito with zero Spanish skills knows something about the constant culture clash that is life in the Magic City. Namely, that a healthy sense of humor helps us relate to our fellow man in the middle of a cultural melting pot. And 2 Days in New York, opening at the Coral Gables Art Cinema Friday, has humor to spare.
French actress Julie Delpy wrote, directed, and stars alongside comedian Chris Rock in the film, a sequel to her 2007 creation, 2 Days in Paris. In that story, Delpy's character Marion and then-beau Jack (Adam Goldberg) pay a quick visit to Paris to try to save their relationship. Instead, the two suffer through a series of awkward situations, making it hard to believe that the strained union will last long after the film's close.
Apparently, it doesn't. In 2 Days in New York, a now 30-something divorcee Marion meets Mingus (Rock), a writer and radio show host, while both are working at New Times' sister newspaper The Village Voice in New York City. In typical Delpy style, Marion wins Mingus' affections not by sex appeal but instead by complaining about how she can't seem to control her urination, announcing her kegel squeezes as she performs them right in front of him. Naturally, the two soon move in together, their rugrats from previous relationships sleeping happily on bunkbeds in a cozy little brownstone in the city.
Their partnership seems to be running smoothly as Marion, a photographer, prepares to open one of the largest shows of her career. Her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and father Jeannot, played by Delpy's real dad, Albert Delpy, arrive to celebrate the event. But they bring one unexpected guest: Manu (Alexandre Nahon), one of Marion's ex-boyfriends, now the over-sexed Rose's new lover. The houseguests test Mingus' patience from the moment they set foot on American soil.
"You like Salt and Pepper?" Manu asks Mingus shortly after the two meet.
"Like, seasoning for food?" Mingus replies, perplexed.
"No," Manu explains, breaking into a froggy rap version of Salt 'n Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex.": "'Let's talk about sex, baby, let's talk about you and me.' It was very big in New York. I'm surprised you don't know it."
"Twenty years ago," says Mingus, in exasperated disbelief.
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If the film's "I'm French and I've never met a black person before" humor rings false, it's saved by the physical presence of Delpy's mountainously fat, red-faced, and shameless father. Delpy Senior is one of the most fascinating and awkwardly humorous elements of the movie, elevating cheap physical comedy into an art form. He bumbles through every scene, attempting to smuggle buckets of sausages and cheese through customs, guzzling wine, and letting his flabby man-boobs and ass hang out all over a Thai massage parlor. Cliched? Perhaps. But the male Delpy is so genuine in his portrayal that we have to wonder if he's even acting at all.
Watching Rock's confused and frightened Mingus try to figure out how the hell to react to Jeannot is one of the highlights of the film experience. And throughout the film, Rock is naturally sweet and gently funny, though some of his scenes fall a bit flat (his monologues to a life-size cardboard cutout of Obama, for example). In any case, the surprising pair of co-stars is a near-effortless on-screen fit, inspiring audience sympathies through each of the social and cultural obstacles the film throws at us. A cute, gentle, and inventive journey, 2 Days in New York should appeal to anyone who's ever felt lost in translation.
The film runs August 17 to 24 at the Coral Gables Art Cinema. Tickets cost $11.