Before I even start this review, I have to make one thing clear: I’m a big fan of both Julie Delpy and Chris Rock. Putting them together caught my interest right away. That, and the fact that the movie was written and directed by Delpy made me curious as to what she would create. There’s a certain charm she has where I can never NOT like her, regardless of what she does. Chris Rock? All he has to do is stand there and I’m ready to laugh.
This is a screwball comedy in the vein of a Woody Allen flick, very New York, with a liberal, artiste sensibility to the storyline. There’s a bit of a back story; back in 2007 Julie Delpy had written, starred and directed a film called 2 Days in Paris where she tells the story of a relationship on the rocks where her then boyfriend meets her parents and things do steadily downhill from there. I haven’t seen that film but her baby with that boyfriend is now a little boy, her life has moved on and she’s now living with Chris Rock’s character Mingus, who is both a writer for the Village Voice (where he met Delpy’s character Marion) and a DJ at the local NPR radio station, along with her son and his daughter by their ex’s. He’s the sane and stable voice in this movie, the hinge around which everyone else revolves. Marion is about to give a show where she will not only exhibit and sell her photographs but also sell her soul to the highest bidder as a form of performance art. Her father Jeannot (played by her real father, Albert Delpy) and sister Rose are arriving from Paris to be in on her big day. Unfortunately, her sister brings along her deadbeat boyfriend and things degenerate from there.
The deadbeat boyfriend is one of Marion’s numerous previous boyfriends. She and her sister have a never-ending rivalry over men, morals, opinions and life in general. When they get into it, it’s like they’re in high school once again. Is her sister actually flirting with Mingus or is she just doing it to needle her sister? What happens when Mingus takes her father for a Thai massage? How do they handle her sister’s boyfriend scoring some weed in their apartment? Marion’s quickly made up excuse of a brain tumor to get out of a difficult situation with her snobby neighbor in the elevator backfires when her surgeon husband comes over to help and can’t stop looking at Rose in a T-shirt and nothing else. It’s a comedy of awkward situations and when Mingus can take no more, he retreats into his home office and converses with a giant cardboard cutout of Barack Obama.
Events build to a climax at Marion’s art exhibit. Everything that can go wrong, does. She has second thoughts about the soul she sold. Even though she is an avowed atheist, maybe she’s not quite as atheistic as she thought. But in the end, it all works out. I thought one of the best scenes in the movie was when Mingus was at the end of his rope and had a chat with Mr. Obama’s cutout about his relationship with Marion. Sometimes all you need is a good listener!
This isn’t a formulaic Hollywood movie and Ms. Delpy takes a lot of chances with situations and dialogue. Some work and some do not but overall, it’s worth seeing and different from the normal cinema fare. If you frequent your local art cinema, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you prefer comic book movies, fast car chases and fart jokes, it’s probably not for you. But if you want to get out of a movie rut and take a chance on something original, you might find this flick worth seeing.