New York’s a little tired in this group effort
by Molly Templeton
NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU: Directed by Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Shekhar Kapur, Fatih Akin, Allen Hughes, Jiang Wen and others. Starring Carlos Acosta, Orlando Bloom, James Caan, Julie Christie, Bradley Cooper, Chris Cooper, Andy Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Irrfan Khan, Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Maggie Q, Robin Wright Penn and more. Viviendi Entertainment, 2009. R. 103 min.
|Drea de Matteo and Bradley Cooper in New York, I Love You|
For all the transitional shots of yellow cabs, skyscrapers, Central Park and the Empire State Building, New York, I Love You just doesn’t have enough New York. The movie lacks the real feel of the place; it’s made up of the ideas you have about what New York is before you actually go there. The problem isn’t just in the montages or the locations, though; it’s in the writing, and the limited view NY,ILU offers of the sprawling city.
The film follows in the footsteps of Paris, Je T’aime, part of an eventual series of semi-anthology films about great cities. Paris’ pieces were distinct, unrelated and set in specific neighborhoods; New York combines a series of vignettes into a loose whole, linking them through transitions that often focus on Zoe (Emilie Ohana), a video artist who films the city as she moves through it, brushing up against the characters from other segments. She shares a cab with one man; another holds his sketchbook in front of her camera when she leaves it alone on a café table.
Zoe’s encounters with strangers, brief and passing, feel more true than most of the encounters in the film — with, of course, a few exceptions. Julie Christie and Shia LaBeouf have an unlikely and unsettling encounter in the piece directed by Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) and based on a script by the late Anthony Minghella. Orlando Bloom turns in an unexpectedly sturdy performance as a stressed-out composer who’s trying to finish a job and make a connection with a production assistant he’s never actually met in person. There’s honesty and indecision in Allen Hughes’ piece, in which a man (Bradley Cooper) and a woman (Drea de Matteo), he on foot, she on the subway, travel toward a second meeting that feels, in their nervous voiceover thoughts, more like a first date.
The majority of the film’s pieces, however, reach too high with too little time and stumble as a result. Quirk overtakes one segment, familiarity muffles another and, in a few instances, the actors simply seem disconnected from their characters. For one quiet, closing moment, Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn have a story they deserve; before that, their slice of the film, with its twist ending, too closely echoes an earlier encounter between Maggie Q and Ethan Hawke.
While Paris, Je T’aime allowed for a variety of relationships between its characters, NY, ILU is focused only on romantic love and sexual connection — and only between straight people, at that. Frankly, it’s too straight, too white and too Manhattan-centric to feel like a truly New York film. New York is a city that contains eight million versions of itself; every person who lives there has a different New York, a personal collection of street corners, bodegas, bars, cafés, tiny parks and overlooked haunts. So why do so many of the stories in this film feel just the same?
New York, I Love You opens Friday, Nov. 27, at the Bijou.