December 5, 2009

300 Words About: New York, I Love You

"Listen, Hayden, let me tell you a little something about being boring on screen"...

Easily one of the most disappointing films of 2009, New York, I Love You makes the largest and most culturally diverse city in the United States appear bland, lily-white, and generally lifeless. It's like Des Moines on a Sunday morning.

To be fair I'm not a New Yorker and have never lived in the city, but in all the times I've ever visited I've never left with an impression as dull and tasteless as I did walking out of this movie. The locations are pedestrian, the stories inconsequential and insipid, the chain-smoking characters severely lacking in charisma, and the acting hit or miss (like, broad-side-of-the-barn miss).
Aside from two or three of the 11 short stories, the highlight of New York, I Love You is the music playing over the closing credits.

If you haven't seen Paris, je t'aime then you might not have been interested in this movie in the first place. If you have seen Paris, je t'aime, just watch it again instead. New York, I Love You doesn't have nearly as much creative scope, believable romance, or broad appeal. Worse, it feels like the best talent is given the short shrift: Ethan Hawke is outstanding in a disappointingly brief performance, Fatih Akin's promising film doesn't have enough time to really develop, and Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn are better than the weak dialogue they're given. And somebody somewhere should have known better than putting Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman together in the same film again.

When you have a project like this with 11 directors and 30+ actors, nobody is to blame and everybody is to blame. I can get behind the idea of these ensemble films, but in practice they don't seem to blossom on screen as it might appear they would on paper. Even Paris, je t'aime, while much better than New York, I Love You, is less than perfect. Maybe it's just a bad idea to begin with; these cities mean different things to different people, and what rings true for one person will feel completely false for someone else. 

Nevertheless, almost anyone would agree that the amateurish New York, I Love You should be better than it is, and despite the cultural diversity of the directing roster I can't help but wonder if a more seasoned group of New Yorkers might not have presented the city in a more recognizable light. As it is, any episode of "Sesame Street" provides a more interesting view of the city than this film.


  1. It's really too bad - the idea on paper is really good.

  2. I know. I'd really been looking forward to this. Should have listened to the tepid reviews after it played at Toronto last fall, I guess.

  3. I do not agree. I really loved this movies. It is made of very different moment. It is completely different from the "Paris" episode because the cities are very different, and " New York" is way more consistent and fluid. I strongly recommend to go watch it: these directors are not amateurs.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Jack. I'll concede that this film is more fluid than Paris, primarily because it intertwines the stories rather than separating them. But I wonder if that didn't actually also work against it, breaking the momentum of each and possibly even confusing an ill-attentive viewer (though I'm not defending viewers who don't pay attention). I feel like the Fatih Akin film should have run straight through, for example. Oh well.

    And "amateurish" may have been too strong a word to apply to the whole film, but some of the segments did feel like student projects; Natalie Portman's marked her directing debut (I think). Also, Scarlett Johannson directed a segment that was deemed so "unwatchable" it was edited out of the film entirely.

    So to some extent even the fact that these first-timers (also, Brett Ratner?!) were in the same company as some of the others is a little bizarre.


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