When I see performers that are primarily known for a different genre of entertainment try to do something different, I would like to think that I am open-minded to enough to go with the experiment, to see how things work out. Having said that, I was admittedly surprised to see Chris Rock tackle a low-budget comedy. However, his playing opposite a paragon of sorts for independent cinema does help matters when we see him without many of his jokes in 2 Days in New York.
The film is co-written by Julie Delpy (of Before Sunset lore), and Alexia Landreau (Marie Antoinette), with Delpy directing, and starring as Marion, a mother and artist who lives with Rock, who plays a radio talk-show host named Mingus. Mingus and Marion live in New York with two children (from prior relationships) and life is good, as Marion is about to open an art exhibition with the 'selling of her soul.' Things become complicated when Marion's family come to town and throw the couple's life up in the air, specifically Marion's father (played by Delpy's father Albert), sister (Landreau) and sister's boyfriend Manu (Alex Nahon, who wrote the story from where the screenplay arose). In addition, the family seems to influence everything that encounters it, whether it is the exhibition, a potential opportunity for Mingus or a neighbor who shares the same apartment building with Marion and Mingus. The strain of Marion's family gets to Mingus and eventually to Marion, and they only hope the family leaves, sooner rather than later.
In Marion's 'family,' we see the same characters here that we do for 2 Days In Paris, which Delpy also wrote and directed. For disclosure's sake, I will admit to not having seen Paris so I cannot speak to how much (if at all) New York serves as a sequel to it. Though I will say this film certainly possesses a standalone feel to it that seeing Paris may be unnecessary. Anyone can relate to his or her significant other's family coming to town and raising holy hell in one fashion or another, right? Moreover, the emotional wearing and tearing on Marion and Mingus is felt more and more as the film goes on. Delpy goes a good job in conveying this, along with the balance of being an accommodating host to the outspoken sister and boyfriend, and to the general eccentricities of her father. Rock does a decent job as well, all the while interacting with a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama, getting into 'conversations' with it in the hopes of landing a personally-prized interview with the President.
With the positive performances from the leads, the overall conflict of the story is one that is not convincing enough for me for the story to keep pushing forward. While 'in-laws come to town and hijinks ensue' is easily relatable, in 2 Days in New York Delpy does not appear to be sure of how to play it. On one hand, throwing the French with little to no English acumen into the middle of the "City That Doesn't Sleep" is done with some attempts at humor, other times it is done for the wear and tear on the relationship between Marion and Mingus, with Marion and her sister almost constantly fighting with one another. It seems like the film wants to have the best of both worlds, but does not do much in either aspect.
While I certainly thought that this experiment by Chris Rock was interesting and his work with Delpy was acceptable (Delpy was good as well), in 2 Days in New York, we have a film that feels like it is not worthy enough to match either of their talents individually, let alone as a collective. If one were going to make a different choice in their career, one would hope the choice would be a little bolder. As it is, Rock's decision to go indie/arthouse is average, with the hope that it improves.
An AVC-encoded 1.85:1 high-definition presentation is in the tea leaves for <2 Days in New York, with the overall result looking fine. Image detail is decent though not entirely consistent, and flesh tones appear natural, with the color palette reproduced accurately without image processing, and in a scene where Delpy is walking outside at night, the darkness looks natural and black levels overall look fine. The film looks as good as it is expected to be on the medium.
Magnolia includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and generally, the disc sounds decent. Dialogue is strong through the feature as I listened to it, and the ambient noise provides for a subtle and immersive experience while listening. The subwoofer does not engage during the film, but directional effects are present and sound clear, though channel panning leaves a little to be desired. I was not expecting to be blown away by the film, yet the overall result is workmanlike and complaint-free.
If you like interviews, then you are in luck. Delpy sits down for interviews (22:13) in which she discusses the story and how Paris may tie into this. She also recalls how she met Rock and her thoughts on working with him. Her insights into the process of writing with Landeau and directing in general are shown, along with what she likes and does not, and her opinions on the locations and various story points. Rock has his own segment, though at 5:25 it does not cover all that much. Interviews with Rock, Landeau, Nahon and the Delpys follow, some of those are conducted in French, and they cover much of the same ground as the other segments do. "A Look at 2 Days In New York" (4:52) is just that from AXS (formerly HDNet) with perspectives from Delpy and Rock, and the trailer for the film (1:53) along with other Magnolia releases are shown.
2 Days in New York is an interesting idea and a nice departure for one of the leads in the movie, but the story does not have much to say nor does it feel all that unique and thus, said departure feels wasted as a result. Technically the disc is solid and from a bonus material perspective does almost enough to whet your appetite, but unless you are looking for closure to/an extension of the Two Days series, I would do little more than renting this bad boy.