New York, I Love You is a collection of 10 short films themed around the Big Apple – not the city per se but rather its meandering motor mouth inhabitants, who coast through the Five Boroughs in search of new conversational victims.
Each film has a different writer, director and cast. One marks Natalie Portman’s behind the camera debut, another was penned by the late Anthony Mingella and another – perhaps the best – hints at the soft and quirky side of Brett Ratner, popcorn director of the Rush Hour trilogy and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006).
A gaggle of stars come along for the ride, throwing into the ring short and flighty performances before promptly exiting stage left to make way for the next marquee name – there’s Ethan Hawke, Orlando Bloom, Robin Wright Penn, Christina Ricci, John Hurt, Chris Cooper, James Caan, Shia LaBeouf and more.
The shorts are generally about strangers connecting. Ratner’s is a definite highlight, an offbeat little piece about a high school student who takes a girl in a wheelchair to the prom. Students tease him and his date but all is not quite what it seems. The film is buoyed by a sweet and playful sex scene that manages to be both cute and erotic, and that’s no easy mix. Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn share another memorable short comprised almost solely of ciggies and chatter on the sidewalk.
However, like most short film compilations the quality fluctuates substantially from piece to piece. Overall New York, I Love You feels both partly hollow and partly satisfying, like an oversized entree or an undersized main. It also feels unusually impersonal, given the theatrical flair for vociferous chit chat and its emphasis on personalities and emotions. The conversations feel too forced, the characters herded together by obvious contrivance rather than the “twist of fate” illusion the writers were obviously shooting for.
There’s also a daggy photo album style pastiche at the end of the film that reveals just how high-minded it can be. Love New York it may, but it loves itself a little bit more.
New York, I Love You’s Australian theatrical release date: May 13, 2010.
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