New York, I Love You: DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

3/21/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"New York, I Love You"

Directed by Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akin, Joshua Marston and Randy Balsmeyer, 110 minutes, rated R.

By our guest blogger, Kicia Sears

New York, I guess you’re all right.

In movies, New York City beats Disneyland as the greatest place on earth. Living in New York means you spend your days watching earnest street performers, taking taxis to glamorous restaurants and clubs, and basking in culture that brims to the point of explosion. What they don’t tell you is that New York City reeks of hot garbage in the summer, everything is oppressively overpriced, sneers and smart remarks rather than friendly banter dominate the majority of encounters in the city, and you’ll probably realize that urine, as much as culture, coats the city’s streets and sidewalks.

Like "Paris, Je T’Aime," "New York, I Love You" consists of 11 short story segments, each written and directed by a different filmmaker in order to drive home the idea that New York isn’t such a big city after all, and that it is possible that everyone is connected. Some of the stories are about love, but some of them are about rejection. Some are about friendship, and some are about loneliness. Correspondingly, some of the segments are good, and some are bad. Well, let’s say that some of the segments have good moments, and some do not.

The story featuring Shia LaBeouf, who plays a bellhop that provides companionship for a retired opera singer, had the potential to be the strongest. LeBeouf plays his role with subtlety and maturity beside veteran actress Julie Christie. The cinematographic use of a white motif works beautifully--there is a breathtaking shot of a piano in the hotel, as well as mirror image shots which, though a bit played, work wonders with the whiteness of the segment. However, the use of a very common trope (to say what would reveal too much) makes it fall disappointingly flat.

The Hayden Christensen/Rachel Bilson short has a few lovely shots, most notably of Bilson’s legs visible within a photo booth, but it suffers from a confusing plot as well as from Robo-Christensen’s wooden acting. Natalie Portman wrote and directed a segment that was well-written line-to-line but unfortunately contains some troubling conceptual flaws. The story about a painter and a Chinese girl is probably the most interesting and all-around well executed, but the tragic storyline is muted when placed alongside the bizarrely shocking or comic tone of the other shorts.

Overall, the segments were clich├ęd, corny and supercilious. The real disappointment, though, is the element that works to bring all of the segments together--the filmmaker arc. Throughout the movie, a woman ends up capturing the characters on her video camera. Her actual person is ill-defined and she ends up as nothing more than a symbol of the watcher, a god-like personage that sees all and helps people find their intrinsic connectedness while celebrating their differences. Gee, a film made by a group of filmmakers posits a filmmaker character as the catalyst.

Though purportedly filmed in each of the boroughs, New York looks as though it takes place entirely on the Upper West Side. There are no homeless people, not even in the background, and though New York City has the largest population of African Americans of any city in the U.S., and Latinos are an ever-growing sector of the city’s demographics, these ethnic groups are two of the most neglected. The film does feature Europeans, Asian Americans, Indian Americans and Hasidic Jews, which are important to the cultural structure of the city, but the result is that New York doesn’t really feel like New York.

Moviegoers expecting a typical love story will be in for a bit of a surprise. Some of the shorts are depressing and frustrating, which is actually the only redeeming feature in the film. It doesn’t romanticize love but tells it like it is--sometimes love works, sometimes it doesn’t.

What the film does instead is romanticize New York. It seems like a commercial for New York, with lines about the city’s greatness placed in characters’ mouths ad nauseam. But once you remove the beer goggles and are no longer drunk on hyperbole, you see the side of the city that New York has chosen to ignore--the people standing in the unemployment line who don’t want to muse with you on the “magic” of New York, okay? So keep it moving, I’m walking here!

View the trailer for "New York, I Love You" here:

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