“2 Days in New York” is essentially a very modern, very cultured variation of the classic in-law comedy scenario. It’s about a married couple, Marion (Julie Deply, who also directed and co-wrote) and Mingus (Chris Rock). She’s French. He’s black. Mingus is a hip DJ. Marion is a struggling photographer. Mingus has an eight-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Marion has an infant boy from a previous relationship. They all live happily and comfortably in an apartment in hip New York City. You can already cut the modernism with a knife.
However, their life is disrupted when Marion’s crazy family decides to come over from France for a visit. There’s her wacky father Jeannot (Albert Deply, Julie’s real life father), her wild sister Rose (Alexa Landeau) and her bum boyfriend and Julie’s ex Manu (Alexendre Nahon). No they’re not racist towards Mingus, if that’s the question you want to ask next. Again this movie too modern and hip to have such an old-fashioned conflict. Sure they spout a few ignorant foreign things here or there but they don’t mean to. Even so, they still prove to be a nuisance for Julie and Mingus. Jeannot scrapes his keys across a car door as a joke and Rose and Manu get high in an elevator.
In many respects Deply’s (who also directed the movie “2 Days in Paris,” which serves a sort of precursor to this one) in-law comedy is fresh and lively. All seven of the people end up staying in Marion and Mingus’ apartment, and that creates a very claustrophobic, chaotic environment. Perfect for this kind of comedy. And a number of amusing and spontaneous moments come out of that stressful situation, like when Marion tells her naggy neighbors (who complain about all the noise from her apartment) that she has terminal cancer, which in turn leads to even more commotion. Also in a unique twist, Julie’s family mostly speaks in French. Mingus doesn’t speak French so that creates a language obstacle. More wood on this already blazing, out of control fire. Chris Rock is surprisingly good, not at all annoying. It shows that actors that do mostly straight comedy are also capable of doing semi serious. He loves Julie a lot and wants to support her and her family but, being the man of the house, he also has to put his foot down and keep things from completely exploding.
At the same time, with all of this chaos in confined spaces the movie can be quite messy and exhausting. I felt like I needed to go out and take a breather every five minutes. Deply is obviously an enthusiastic and energetic filmmaker but she could have dialed the film’s energy down just a little bit. She directs some scenes like she’s on a sugar high, making them irritating and annoying instead of fun.
Even so, “2 Days in New York” is still entertaining and touching. And it’s the freshest in-law comedy I’ve seen in years.