Good comedians have tragic eyes, and Julie Delpy, the director, star and co-writer of 2 Days in New York, has a particularly high level of anxiety in her gaze. This film's more farcical than Delpy's 2 Days in Paris (2007), and the quickness of its bicultural reversals sharpens the material. A movie about New York, after all, should move faster than a movie about Paris.
Delpy's Marion has a talented partner to quarrel with in Mingus (Chris Rock). The two share a hut-sized Greenwich Village apartment with a child each from previous relationships. And then three visiting foreigners arrive: the half-clad and prowling sister Rose (Alexia Landeau), her pothead boyfriend, Manu (Alex Nahon), and Marion's widowed father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy).
Albert Delpy stole his daughter's last film and comes back for a new haul. In real life, Albert did a bit of alternative theater back in the 1960s, and he's a joy assaying this proudly smelly old man. Face set in a goaty leer, Albert is always asking extremely personal questions that he doesn't really have the English to properly form.
Being left behind in the language gap amplifies Mingus' straight-man solitude, giving him nightmares of the invading family as a flock of Peter Greenaway aristos in wigs and lace, smacking their chops over an ogre's feast. Left alone, Mingus bounces questions off of his most reliable pal, a cardboard cutout of Obama.
2 Days in New York unspools with genial bits. Marion, an artist, tries a conceptual piece in selling her soul on Halloween and gets a sinister purchaser. She poses as a malade, resulting in a volunteer house call from a doctor (Dylan Baker) who is distracted by Rose's butt. The film's last third wobbles, but it's fairly nimble.
Maybe the funniest part is unintentionally so: Mingus is allegedly supporting this ménage on a salary writing for the layoff-wracked Village Voice.
'2 Days in New York' is at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael through Aug. 23, and opens at Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa on Aug. 24.