Julie Delpy made quite the impression on me in her seminal Sundance film Before Sunrise and its sequel, Before Sunset. She's back at this year's festival, this time as a writer/director of a different sequel, 2 Days in New York. Following the events of 2 Days in Paris, Delpy plays Marion, a single mom who has moved in with her boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock), who has a child of his own from a previous relationship. Marion is a photographer, and her exhibition is set to happen in the same week her father Jeannot (played by Delpy's real father, Albert Delpy) and sister Rose (Alexia Landeau, who co-wrote this film) fly in to visit from France. Also in tow is Manu (Alexandre Nahon), Rose's impetuous dolt of a boyfriend who used to date Marion.
While the movie features some of the hallmarks of the Before... series, I didn't like this one nearly as much. Those films are extremely dialogue heavy, but they deal with huge themes and interestingly explore the connection between what people think and what we actually say. In 2 Days in New York, the dialogue flows just as freely, but it doesn't carry nearly the same weight. Most of the movie is made up of comic misunderstandings between the French relatives and Chris Rock's character, and when comedy isn't at the forefront, the movie devolves into a cacophony of shrieking and arguing between family members. Imagine your worst family gathering, multiply the volume by five, and this is what you get. The most impressive thing about the movie is how Delpy and her editor are able to weave something coherent from all the dissonance. Some will surely find this back-and-forth funny and endearing, but for me it was mostly just grating.
The most enjoyable thing about 2 Days in New York was Chris Rock's performance; he plays the straight man who is just as confused about all of these crazy French people as the audience, and he has some pretty hysterical moments talking by himself with a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama. I won't give away all of the gags, since many of these isolated sequences are actually very funny and almost make the movie worth recommending. Overall though, this one didn't have much to offer aside from ordinary observations about cultural differences and the pressures family can put on otherwise happy relationships.