- Rock and Delpy: Sweating out their differences.
Woody Allen has been on an extended European holiday for the better part of a decade, so it's oddly fitting that he should find a female tribute artist of sorts in French actress-writer-director Julie Delpy, who tries to cram New York neuroses through a decidedly Gallic funnel. The blond and lovely Delpy started out playing haunted ingénues, then cemented her place in cinema history co-starring in the Sunrise films with Ethan Hawke, and became known as a specialist in beautiful, corroding love affairs. As a director, she's turned to messy, confessional comedies of relationship foibles, here offering the reverse angle to 2007's amusing 2 Days In Paris.
This time around, Delpy's edgily sarcastic boyfriend (played by Adam Goldberg) has been swapped for a hip radio host named Mingus (uh, yeah), smartly rendered by Chris Rock. Delpy's artist Marion is just as erratic and needy as before, but now she's got to balance her boho American family unit with her obnoxiously exaggerated French relatives, who invade the couple's cozy Manhattan townhouse like a frenzied mob storming the Bastille.
Marion's leering, oversexed kin include her dotty father (Delpy's real dad, Albert) her nympho sister (Alexia Landeau) and a rude, horny stoner tag-along (Alexandre Nahon), who loudly boasts that he's dated both siblings.
What follows is a cross-cultural farce, as the ugly continentals smoke joints in the elevator, refuse to shower, guzzle wine and scorn Corn Flakes in favor of chocolate croissants (who wouldn't?). Nobody wears a beret or pedals a bicycle with a baguette in the front basket, but the Europeans-meet-uptight-New-Yorker clichés abound.
The humor is as broad as the Champs-élysées, but when you name your African-American lead "Mingus," you've pretty much abandoned notions of cultural sensitivity. Delpy keeps barreling along at a frantic pace, chucking gags at the screen recklessly, and only a few of them manage to hit.
Rock does some of the best work in his mostly indifferent film career, and his monologues directed at a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama are genuinely hysterical. Too little else here rises above a smile, and when the tone clumsily segues from soufflé light silliness to precious musings about love and death, one can merely shrug their shoulders and sigh "vive la difference."