Julie Delpy's second film as a director confirms the two best indications given by her first directorial effort, "2 Days in Paris" that she has a gift for the wildly absurd and that she can direct herself.
Her new film, "2 Days in New York," is a significant step forward. It's extremely funny, one of the funniest films of 2012, with a particularly winning style far-fetched, extreme and nonstop.
There are times in "2 Days in New York" when Delpy the director is managing scenes that are just short of chaos, with several characters onscreen talking simultaneously or doing something completely different from each other. Delpy shows real skill in her ability to take things to the edge, while keeping the actions clear and the comic beats crisp and clean.
Comedy requires rigor, and this is a rigorous and controlled director. She is also the first director to get a good performance out of Chris Rock "2 Days in New York" is a breakthrough for him, too. In his previous films, he has seemed, at times, either like an amateur or like a visiting celebrity trading on an audience's familiarity with him. But here he does some real acting. He's funny, but mainly he's a straight man, and he's restrained.
Delpy reprises her "2 Days in Paris" role as Marion, a woman not unlike Delpy herself, born in France and living in the United States. In the last film, Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy, her real-life parents, played Marion's parents. In the years since, Marie Pillet has died, and so in "2 Days in Paris," Marion's father (Albert Delpy) is a widower who comes to visit Marion and her boyfriend (Rock) in New York. He is accompanied by Marion's compulsively flirtatious sister (Alexia Landeau) and her shifty boyfriend.
Delpy's portrayal of her French relatives is a refreshing contrast from the usual American assumptions about French people, that they're refined and reserved. Delpy presents them as vulgar, obsessive, scheming and even dishonest, crazy hicks with attractive accents. Albert Delpy particularly goes to town on the role of Marion's father, playing him as an aged Pan a French Harpo Marx.
Landeau, who also wrote the screenplay, is quite subtle and funny as Marion's resentful younger sister, who is barely conscious of her constant effort to undercut Marion and disrupt her life.
Delpy brings comical adeptness to the role of Marion, reacting to the absurdities of others. At no time is there any hint that she is directing herself. She creates scenes that are layered with detail and full of bits. As a director, she gives the impression of never being at a loss for what to do with the actors.
If Delpy's first film announced that she was someone capable of directing a movie, her second announces that her greatest talent might really be as a comedy director, a seriously good one.
2 DAYS IN NEW YORK
Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy and Alexia Landeau
Director: Julie Delpy
Rated R (nudity, sexual references, illicit drug use and profanity)