Pardon, they're French
In the family … Albert and Julie Delpy are father and daughter on and offscreen.
Julie Delpy occupies an unusual niche in movies. Discovered at 14 by Jean-Luc Godard, who cast her in Detective (1985), she was heading for a successful acting career in France when she decided to move to New York to study filmmaking. That was in 1990.
Richard Linklater cast her in his new-style romance, Before Sunrise, in 1995 and again nine years later in its sequel, Before Sunset. Krzysztof Kieslowski used her in all his Three Colours films. Impatient with waiting for good roles, she moved to Los Angeles, where she is now a multihyphenate: a writer-director-actress-producer-musician with French and American citizenship, who makes films in both languages, usually concurrently.
Very few French actresses who work regularly in English, and almost none who write and direct movies in that language, have managed this transition. What's more, Delpy makes a modern sort of screwball comedy, something most directors fear, even when their first language is English. Her English is almost unaccented but she retains an acute sense of the cultural differences between France and the US. This movie and its predecessor, 2 Days in Paris, were built on a sense of playfulness about these differences.
In the first film, made in 2007, Delpy's character, Marion, a photographer, and her American boyfriend, Jack (Adam Goldberg), stop off in Paris after a holiday in Venice. He is appalled by French plumbing and attitudes to sex, and her number of ex-lovers. In fact, he is an American prude and hypochondriac with a slightly mean disposition - just enough to make us laugh at him. Delpy's own parents (both actors) played her parents with an enjoyable sense of Gallic exaggeration. Jeannot (Albert Delpy) makes rabbit stew, reserving the head for his own plate (ears still attached). The film was a moderate hit.
The new one revisits the idea for New York, as her family comes to visit. Goldberg's character has gone, replaced in Marion's affections by radio announcer Mingus, played by comedian Chris Rock. They live in his apartment with her son, Lulu (Owen Shipman), from her time with Jack, and Mingus's daughter, Willow (Talen Riley), from one of his previous marriages. The apartment is small but harmonious. Marion and Mingus are in love: busy, cramped, horny and happy.
Marion prepares the children for the arrival of grandpapa with a puppet show to explain that he has been very sad since the death of grandmama. The scene is typical of Delpy's off-centre approach to comedy, introducing an expectation of how a character will be so that she can contradict it: Grandpa Jeannot shows little sign of grief, except for his saucisson. Homeland Security has relieved him on arrival of several kilograms of French sausage and cheese. He comes with Marion's neurotic sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau, co-writer of the script), and her boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon), reprising roles from the first film. Manu is not invited, for reasons quickly apparent.
Delpy's writing can be partly autobiographical: the death of her mother after the first film is part of the backdrop to this one, adding a sadness to Marion's narration. Yet the film is never far from hilarity and mayhem, much of it from Albert Delpy's leering performance. With a small hat, a large belly and little English, he brings some of the spirit of French physical comedy to Marion's neurotic Manhattan world.
She is close to a Woody Allen heroine - talkative, insecure, adorable, easily aroused to anger by her annoying sister. Rock plays uneasy straight man to the family dynamics.
When Delpy gets the characters lined up in a good comic situation, the film cracks along. She experiments in comedy, which works often enough to make the film seem fluid and real, albeit in an exaggerated way. Until it doesn't work. In scenes where Rock has a ''dialogue'' with a cardboard cut-out of Barack Obama, the film falters. Such scenes show another draft and stiffer edit were needed.
Delpy has a terrific instinct for broad comedy about national characteristics. She says her ''family'' isn't quite French, but Gallic: rude, impulsive, insensitive, unaware yet warm - an unpolished kernel of French culture. They can be hilarious - in someone else's house.
2 DAYS IN NEW YORK
Directed by Julie Delpy
Rated MA, 95 minutes