Chris Rock Shines in Talk Cinema Screening of 2 Days in New York

Categories: Film and TV
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Chris Rock's brilliant performance may just be the one thing that keeps you going in Julie Delpy's stumbling screwball comedy.

There's a lot wrong with French star Julie Delpy's new indie flick, 2 Days in New York, but there's one thing that's very, very right: Chris Rock.

As Mingus, Rock is the saving grace of an often disjointed mess of a film, a screwball comedy that tries to force quirkiness with brute strength rather than wit. Mingus is the boyfriend of Delpy's Marion, a co-worker from The Village Voice who enters the picture after her break-up with the father of her son (the film is actually a sequel to 2 Days in Paris, also written and directed by and starring Delpy, which follows this earlier relationship). "Was it pity?" asks Marion in a voiceover of their romance. "Was it love? Was it my innocent comment about a blow job?"

At the final installment of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Talk Cinema series on Tuesday, the audience is laughing - but it's a stilted laugh, a knee-jerk response to surprise and embarrassment (like a first-grader who hears the word "underpants"), or a desperate attempt to make the time pass more quickly by at least performing enjoyment.

The film centers around the visit to New York City of Marion's dysfunctional family: her nymphomaniac/child psychologist sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau); Rose's inappropriate, pot-smoking boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon); and her sweet but foolish father (played by Albert Delpy, Julie Delpy's real-life father).

Mingus is our rock in the midst of the chaos that ensues, driven just as mad as the audience is by this cast of aggressive misfits (he has one hilarious nightmare in which he imagines Marion's family all dressed in pre-French Revolution finery, stuffing their faces like Marie Antoinette before the guillotine got her). 

 He is the only really likeable character, but more than that, he's the only genuine, believable character - and that includes Delpy's Marion, who spends the film launching into tirades like clockwork: Here we need comedy; here we need drama; here we need profanity; here we need sex appeal.

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Magnolia Pictures
Next to Rock, Delpy's father (far right) is the other likeable character: complex, often inappropriate, but full of love.

In a film in which every actor is playing to the cheap seats (like Helena Bonham-Carter described all the Death Eaters in Harry Potter as constantly trying to one-up each other in sheer ham-iness), Rock's Mingus is distinctly, refreshingly measured and calm. 

His comedic dialogue is almost muttered under his breath, so completely opposite of Rock's shouting stand-up persona, and even in monologues (delightfully delivered to a cardboard stand-up of President Obama he keeps in his office) he maintains this restrained demeanor. Rock has noted in interviews just how excited he was to get a script that challenged him to be a character, not just a stand-up comedian; providing this opportunity to showcase a new side of Rock's talent is easily the greatest contribution to the art made by Delpy's film.

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Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale, AZ

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