A Parisian by birth and a now-former New Yorker by choice, Julie Delpy understands firsthand the differences between the two cities’—and their nations’—cultures; that fact alone, however, doesn’t necessarily qualify her to make a penetrating comedy out of their clashes. Having mined the comic potential of an uptight Manhattanite traipsing around the City of Light in 2007’s 2 Days in Paris, the hyphenate star now reverses locales: Delpy’s expat Marion is back in le Apple Grande, living in a lovely midtown apartment with her new boyfriend (an impressive Chris Rock), a fellow journalist from the Village Voice. (Their editorial beats are never specified; as they both still seem to be employed, one can assume that neither are film critics.) Everything is peachy, until Marion’s kooky father (real-life Delpy père Albert), her nympho-exhibitionist frenemy sister (Alexia Landeau) and her sibling’s hipster d-bag boyfriend (Alexandre Nahon) show up for an extended visit. Phrases are misunderstood! Tolerance for Euro-libertine ways are tested! Tame encounters turn into terrifying humiliations, because the French are, like, so crazy!
With its wry voiceovers and jaunty vintage jazz on the soundtrack, Delpy’s comedy strongly resembles another writer-director’s tales of neurotic New Yorkers, though you should forgive, or at least forget, that venal sin; if everybody who borrowed from Woody Allen were arrested, two thirds of today’s filmmakers would be in jail. It’s when the tone switches from Annie Hall to Everybody Loves Raymond that things start to get embarrassing, with vignettes involving faked brain tumors, pervy neighbors, pregnancy tests and doorbell repairmen practically begging for a laugh track. (A beautiful, offbeat bit involving a downtown celebrity fixture only highlights how lame and lazy everything else is.) Both Rock and Delpy the actor invest so much in their respectively harried, recognizably human urbanites that you wonder why Delpy the director keeps undermining things by engaging in easy Gallic caricatures and generically Gotham-ming it up at every opportunity. Her New York twosome are indie characters stuck in a sitcom; someone needs to swoop in and throw them into a Sundance character study, stat.
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