Monday, February 8, 2010

Movie Review: New York, I Love You

First off, Valentine's Day (the movie, not the actual pointless day) is getting a sequel called New Year's Eve, presumably to be released at or near New Year's Eve. Sure, it hasn't even been released yet and probably sucks enough to peel faces off of normal humans, but it's got everyone who ever starred in or watched a romantic comedy. It's really just proof that the new trend in rom coms is to anthologize them. Surprisingly, even though no one has nailed this strategy except Love Actually, I'm a fan of this idea. See, most rom coms have about a two sentence plot and all the depth of a dixie cup. Really, if you think about it, these stupid movies have about 10 minutes of actual movie and 80 minutes of filler involving chubby best friends (male and female), wacky shenanigans and misunderstandings, and a bullshit montage. Why not just use the 10 minutes that are somewhat passable and hobble together an anthology movie? I don't mind this at all. It's like instead of having to see 10 of these movies a year, you see one and your quota is filled. It's a good idea. This brings me to my review of New York, I Love You, a movie that tried to do this (kind of) and sort of failed. To be fair, it insisted upon itself as an intelligent ROMANCE film, not a romantic comedy anthology...but then it went and let Hayden Christensen star in it, so there goes any quality. Enough preamble, here's the review.

DVD Discovery
Urban Jumble
New York, I Love You…but only a little

Some of the 11 interwoven short films that comprise New York, I Love You are fascinating in their subtle, nuanced romanticism. The rest of them can go straight to hell.

Like a box of chocolates in which half are caramel filled and half are stuffed with sewage, this successor to the 2006 anthology flick Paris, Je T’aime isn’t so much a postcard of the sleepless city as it is a delicious big apple with plenty of rotten spots. The film’s concept is its own undoing, as the loosey-goosey structure that allows shockingly disparate perspectives on “love in New York” prevents any cohesive experience. Instead, the viewer is force fed an all-you-can-eat buffet without the benefit of choosing their portions.

Although the assignment was “love in New York,” some creators must have heard “just do whatever.” For example, Jiang Wen directed Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia and Rachel Bilson to have a pointless conversation in a bar, while Allen Hughes directed Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo to act like they wanted to hump each other, even though they’re strangers, before humping each other, even though they’re strangers.

Although boring, at least those two tales weren’t as inscrutable as director Yvan Attal’s segment, which featured Maggie Q as a call girl, Ethan Hawke as a writer who tries to seduce her with sexy talk, and Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn as a married couple with mental defects, or director Fatih Akin’s nonsensical story of a painter (Uğur Yücel) who dies before painting his subject (Shu Qi). And let’s not even mention Randy Balsmeyer’s “transition segments,” for fear of further encouraging him.

Thankfully, some folks actually tried. Director Mira Nair’s sweet short features the daydream of cross-cultural love between Natalie Portman and Irrfan Khan. Shunji Iwai’s quickie about a struggling composer (Orlando Bloom) and his reluctant muse (Christina Ricci) is a keeper. Shekhar Kapur’s haunting ditty has Julie Christie as a fading singer, with John Hurt and Shia LaBeouf awkwardly present. Natalie Portman’s directorial debut is a delightfully ambiguous tale of fatherly affection. Director Joshua Marston enjoyably spotlights the elderly love between Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman. And finally, in the upset of the century, director Brett Ratner fires off the most fun piece, with Anton Yelchin as a boy who takes James Caan’s daughter (Olivia Thirlby) to the prom with kinky results.

Watching New York, I Love You is kind of like consuming 11 romantic comedies in one sitting. Subtract the air of artistic arrogance mixed with the student filmmaking vibe, and this seems to be a natural evolution. With last year’s He’s Just Not That Into You and the upcoming rom-com nuclear bomb Valentine’s Day sporting obscenely gigantic casts cut up into tiny, bite-size sketches, it seems like we may have found the answer to the slew of “date movies” that feature wafer-thin plots and clever premises. Why not smoosh them together into one experience? This isn’t necessarily a bad idea; with the right combo of creators and talent, this may be a sign of things to come.

Grade – C+

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