New York, I Love You

Starring: Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, Natalie Portman, Julie Christie, James Caan, Shia LaBeouf, Emilie Ohana, Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman, and others. Directed by 11 Directors, including Joshua Marston, Brett Ratner, Shekhar Kapur, and Randy Balsmeyer.
Rated MA 15+  Restricted (strong sexual references). 103 min.

This movie comes from the producer of “Paris, Je t’Aime”. It has a large cast and is directed by multiple directors, who are responsible for brief segments, ranging from  8-10 min. each. It is the second episode in the “Cities of Love” series, created and produced by Emmanuel Benbihy. Coming are Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, and Mumbai. The short pieces interweave, and are integrated by the theme of love.

New York, like Paris, is one of the world’s great cities, full of life, culture and energy.  This is a movie that attempts to capture the city’s richness and diversity. The film includes many well known actors, who star in 11 different stories. The stories are joined together by a video-photographer (Emilie Ohana), who interacts with the characters in the film casually, and people from previous stories occasionally re-appear to lend a helping hand. The informal coming together of the stories is directed by the 11th.  director, Randy Balsmeyer. Not surprisingly, some vignettes work much better than others, but New York through it all manages to look good. Each story deals with a different part of the city, and the movie offers us a collection of affectionate tributes to “the city that never sleeps”. 

Some of the stories that stand out include Chris Cooper’s nervous playing of a husband, whose wife (Robin Wright Penn) talks dirty to him outside a restaurant, while each pretends not to know the other; Eli Wallach’s touching depiction of a fractious and affectionate relationship he has to his equally irritable wife of 63 years (Cloris Leachman); and the attraction of a suicidal, aging opera singer (Julie Christie) to a disabled bellhop (Shia LaBeouf) in a faded luxury hotel. Each of the episodes packs a surprise ending, and aims to provide insights that have personal meaning. The basic problem with the movie as a whole is that it remains a set of individual pieces, which are integrated too loosely. The emotion of love, no matter how complex, cannot depict what characterises the city’s vibrancy. Only at times, does the film reflect the reality of survival in New York, and capture the marvellous feeling of the pride that New Yorkers have in an all-encompassing city from which many of them can’t escape. New York is not a city of people who necessarily love, or even like, each other, but it is a city of people commonly bonded in an environment that energizes them, and makes the city in which they live a place of wonder.

The army of writers, directors and actors in the movie doesn’t consistently communicate the range of feelings and emotions that New York engenders, but there are “moments” in the film about life in New York, which are full of tenderness, oddness, and humanity. The lives of people in this movie do occasionally reflect the city’s distinctive sense of togetherness. New York is not a sexy, romantic city for all who live there, despite the fact that the movie suggests it is. Social issues like race nearly always are kept off-camera, and the cast plays only at the edges of the city’s problems. The 11 directors in the film are artistically and culturally very diverse, and New York manages to look the same to a lot of them, but not all. Some episodes struggle to reflect the city’s mood, while others capture it just right (those, for example, directed by Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, and Brett Ratner) .

Although the character of New York remains elusive in the movie a whole, the film provides an entertaining look at a marvellously diverse city. Central New York and its surrounds are photographed well, and the differences in style of the 11 directors are interesting to observe. 

This movie asks you to spot an actor you know, and a wide variety of surprise endings delivers a number of very effective punches. Some stories also contain humorous elements that will be enjoyed. The film’s main appeal, however, is romantic, and the movie borrows much more heavily from fantasy, than it does from reality.   

Madman Entertainment. Out May 13, 2010

Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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