2 DAYS IN NEW YORK
About The Film
It's the next big step: meeting the relatives. Maybe you get a little nervous,
take a little while to warm up to everybody, but, hopefully, everything will go
smoothly. But somebody forgot to warn poor Mingus: HERE COME THE FRENCH.
After shooting her 2009 dark thriller, The Countess, writer/director/actress
JULIE DELPY decided it was time for a comedy - a genre at which she had proven
herself quite adept two years earlier, with 2 Days in Paris, a successful
romantic comedy co-starring Adam Goldberg. "I thought, 'Okay, why not a
sequel?'" she says. "But I knew I couldn't do a sequel with the same guy,
because that would be too much like Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, two
romantic gems she had starred in and co-write with Ethan Hawke, directed by
Richard Linklater. "Out of respect for those films, and for Richard and Ethan, I
knew I couldn't do that."
So Delpy spent the next year or so thinking and taking notes, as she usually
does, figuring out the next step in Marion's life. "Marion seems to go from
relationship to relationship. She's not after getting the ring and getting
married - her issue is commitment, chemistry and figuring out her life," she
says. "That's the serious part."
All good comedies, the director notes, have, at their core, a true reality. "I
like to build on real ground - not necessarily drama, but on a reality. I'll
pick a subject matter that could be a drama. It doesn't necessarily need to be a
funny story. But then I turn it around with crazy situations and characters -
that's what makes it funny."
The first thing Delpy had to figure out was who Marion's new guy would be - and
that didn't take long. "I thought, 'I want someone new as a boyfriend. Who is
it?' And the first person that came to mind was Chris Rock.'"
While the obvious thought would be that Delpy wanted to create a bi-racial
couple, that's not the case. "It was never about that. I just love his energy.
Chris has a neurotic side, which I really like. He has an angst about him that I
think is endearing and which I thought would make a really interesting dynamic
in this relationship.
Once she had decided on Marion's other half, Delpy enlisted two old friends -
ALEXIA LANDEAU and ALEX NAHON - to help her develop the story. Both had appeared
in the previous 2 Days film, as Marion's sister, Rose, and ex-boyfriend, Manu,
respectively. "I've known Alex since I was 19, and Alexia for about 14 years."
She and Landeau eventually wrote the final screenplay together.
"I had the story in mind, but I wanted to write with someone," Delpy says. "I've
been writing alone for many, many years. I love writing, but when I write alone,
I can get stuck in my head. It's like I'm talking to myself. But when I write
with someone, it becomes a game. You bounce ideas off each other. Of course, I
always end up getting my ideas in!" she laughs.
The film begins with Marion giving us a quick capsule of what's happened prior,
explaining to her child - and us - how she is now a single mom with a young son,
and that grandpa and Auntie Rose are coming for a visit - all via a pair of hand
puppets. "I had actually used that with my own son," she explains. "I wanted to
explain to him what had happened to my mother, and that I needed to go back to
work. And that was the perfect way for me to explain it to him, so that he
wouldn't feel abandoned."
Marion herself has a young boy (fathered by Jack, the Adam Goldberg character
from the previous film), and Mingus has a young daughter, also from a previous
marriage. "He's had two marriages, so he's not perfect at it either. He's
learned from his previous experiences to be on the lookout for a sign of
anything crazy." And over a two-day period, he gets an eyeful.
"Prior to the family visiting, the relationship is working just fine. But then
we have two days - a time limitation, which is interesting - where her family
comes to visit, and it stirs up all kinds of things for her." Everything from
the death of her mom, a gallery opening of her art, to the big question of
whether the soul actually exists - which she explores by selling hers to an
anonymous bidder as a conceptual art piece! "I wanted to bring all that out, so
that Mingus can see it and ask, 'So is this the real you?'"
At the other end of the handle stirring the pot are the three visitors, led by
Delpy's own father, veteran French actor Albert Delpy, whose hilarious
performance as Marion's loopy dad, Jeannot, is one of the highlights of the
film. "I was raised by a big child," the director laughs. "He's a wild beast. I
saw him onstage in the 70s doing the most insane things, in plays that were just
crazy. I've seen him play women, junkies. . . everything." Delpy wrote the part
specifically for her father (who also appeared in the previous film). "I know
who he is, and I know what he's capable of. And I know what to do to get him to
go to a place where, you know. . . . 'There he goes.'"
While the younger Delpy knew what to expect from Albert, it was a bit of a shock
for Rock, it turns out. "I don't think he was truly prepared to have an
interaction with someone like my dad! I could see it in Chris's face - at times,
he was, like, 'Oh, my God - what's gonna happen?' But it was all a lot of fun
Also visiting is Marion's sister, Rose, played by Alexia Landeau. "Marion
herself is not very analytical," Delpy says of her own character. "She's a bit
neurotic and unaware of what she's doing. She acts before thinking about what
she's about to do. She's much like me, if I wasn't as analytical as I am - I
think everything through 10 times before doing it," she laughs. Rose, she says,
"is like Marion multiplied times 10."
A child psychologist, the younger sibling has a penchant for analyzing the
non-existent "problems" of her sister's son, a constant irritation to Marion and
source of many a cat fight in the film. "Rose is a bit jealous of her sister,
whom she loves and wishes she was more like." Though she herself has no sisters,
the love-hate dynamic between the two was a familiar one to Delpy. "I've seen
quite a bit of this between sisters, with friends that have smaller or bigger
sisters. With these two, it's a source of trouble, and it's really funny."
Making things worse is the presence of Manu (Alex Nahon), the uninvited
ex-boyfriend of Marion - and current beau of her sister. Played with robust
egotism by Nahon, Manu (especially with his girlfriend's help) is the source of
plenty of trouble for Mingus - and plenty of laughs. "Manu is a nightmare come
true," Delpy notes. "He says and does things that just make your skin crawl."
So wait a minute - aren't the French supposed to be those polite, sophisticated
people with the berets who say "oui" and "monsieur" and all that? "Mingus isn't
dealing with those kind of French," Delpy laughs. "He's facing the Gaulois." As
in the Gauls, the ancient French who fought Julius Caesar and worshipped boars.
"All they thought about was food, having fun and sex. We all come from those
very tough-skinned, eccentrics." Just watch Albert Delpy's Jeannot in any scene
in the movie, and you'll get the picture.
While his character is mostly a serious one in the film, Chris Rock has plenty
of opportunity to give us. . . Chris Rock. Particularly when, perplexed by any
situation, Mingus has an informal chat with one of his heroes, President Obama
(okay, one of those full-sized cardboard cutouts of President Obama you can get
at any gift shop in Times Square). Everything from dealing relationships to
whether it's cool to address him as "Barack."
As you'll probably guess, Delpy's comedic sense is based in her admiration of
classic screwball comedies. "I love that stuff," Delpy says. "I was brought up
on all kinds of different comedies, but I love absurd comedy."
In one hilarious sequence, for example, Mingus is trying in vain to have a
reasonable conversation at the dinner table with Jeannot, who, barely speaking
any English, gets "assistance" from Manu - who's not much better, mistranslating
everything that comes out of Mingus's mouth. ["Aren't you on the radio?" "Yes, I
have two shows on Public Radio and one on Sirius." "He says he has the flu, it
may be serious."] If talking to Jeannot isn't hard enough by itself, the two
sisters are going at it over Rose's continued misdiagnosis of Marion's son.
"I love this kind of mayhem - no one understands anything in a conversation
that's going nowhere, and the sisters are fighting over kids and autism and
screwing ex-boyfriends," Delpy says. "It's the kind of absurd moment that just
makes me laugh."
The scene is also a perfect example of the incredible editing work of film
editor Isabelle Devinck, who worked with Delpy on her last film, "Le Skylab."
While, just as with her writing, Delpy often edits her films herself, she and
Devinck worked together here as a kind of a tag team for comic timing. "She's my
favorite person on the planet right now," the director states. "We have such a
wonderful time working together, because we have the same sense of humor. It's
like having two brains."
The mistranslation sequence required special care to turn out as funny as Delpy
wished. "Isabelle and I spent three weeks on that scene alone," she explains.
"It was very important for it to have that experience of back-and-forth, between
them trying to have this crazy conversation and the sisters fighting in the
back. Those kinds of scenes are the trickiest things to do. If you're a few
frames off, it doesn't work. It has to be understandable, so you can get what's
going on. The comedy has to work on both sides."
Another treat from the editing room is a wonderful series of montages, used, for
example, to give us, in a fun, brief capsule, the path of Jeannot's life, or
fill us in on the visiting French's day of sightseeing around the Big Apple.
"Most of those kinds of scenes in movies show the characters with a few seconds
at this famous location, a few at another. I thought it would be funny to have a
montage of photos where we see every landmark in New York in 30 seconds." The
sequence is comprised of hundreds of snapshots, taken with a Canon 5D digital
still camera - all looking like a tourist (from the looks of them, probably
Jeannot) took them. "That was the goal."
So does the French invasion have a positive or negative effect on Marion and
Mingus's relationship? Just ask the puppets. . .
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