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Case Number 18232: Small Claims Court

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New York, I Love You

Vivendi Visual Entertainment // 2009 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // February 2nd, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas loves New York, but he's going to propose to Chicago.

Editor's Note

Our review of New York, I Love You (Blu-Ray), published February 4th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

Every moment…love begins.

The Case

So here's how this thing works. A group of directors are each given two days to shoot a short film and one week to edit it. Then another director finds a way to string all of the sequences together in an organic manner. This was the basic idea for the 2006 film Paris, je T'aime, and now it's being repeated for a sort-of sequel, New York, I Love You. As you might expect, the film is a mixed bag of pleasurable little treats and off-key misfires. Let's take a look at them one by one.

• A younger man (Hayden Christensen, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) follows a younger woman (Rachel Bilson, The O.C.) into a bar, and attempts to charm her by helpfully "finding" items that he actually stole from her. He then meets her older boyfriend (Andy Garcia, The Godfather: Part III), who has a few tricks of his own. Directed by Jiang Wen.
Grade: C+

• A Hasidic Jewish woman (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta) and a Hindu shop owner (Irrfan Khan) reflect on the challenging complexities of their religions while simultaneously flirting with each other and conducting a negotiation of sorts. Directed by Mira Nair.
Grade: B

• A struggling film composer (Orlando Bloom, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) attempts to figure out why a director dislikes so much of his score while talking on the phone to his girlfriend (Christina Ricci, Black Snake Moan). Directed by Shunji Iwai.
Grade: B-

• A man (Ethan Hawke, Training Day) approaches a woman (Maggie Q, Live Free or Die Hard) on the street and desperately attempts to convince her to have sex with him. Directed by Yvan Attal.
Grade: B

• A teenager (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek (2009)) takes the wheelchair-bound daughter (Olivia Thirlby, Juno) of a local pharmacist (James Caan, The Godfather) to a prom. Directed by Brett Ratner.
Grade: B+

• A man (Bradley Cooper, All About Steve) and a woman (Drea De Matteo, The Sopranos) have wildly different feelings about their most recent date as they walk towards a bar to meet up for the second time. Directed by Allen Hughes.
Grade: D+

• An older woman (Julie Christie, Finding Neverland) and a young Russian man (Shia Labeouf, Transformers) have an unusual encounter. John Hurt also shows up. Directed by Shekhur Kapur.
Grade: C+

• A father (Carlos Acosta) and his little girl (Taylor Geare, Four Christmases) enjoy a pleasant day in the park together. Directed by Natalie Portman.
Grade: B-

• A painter (Ugur Yucel, The Bandit) struggles with his latest work and follows a woman (Shu Qi, The Transporter) who works at a local grocery store in the hopes of convincing her to model for one of his portraits. Directed by Fatih Akin.
Grade: C

• A businessman (Chris Cooper, American Beauty) and a woman (Robin Wright Penn, Hurlyburly) share a smoke on the sidewalk and an awkward discussion of sex. Directed by Yvann Attal.
Grade: A

• An elderly man (Eli Wallach, The Holiday) and his wife (Cloris Leachman, Young Frankenstein) go on a walk together down the streets of New York City. Directed by Joshua Marston.
Grade: A-

As anthology films go, New York, I Love You falls short of Jim Jarmusch's consistently brilliant Coffee and Cigarettes, but fares better than say, Four Rooms. Many of the shorts are rather slight, but they're quietly appealing and well-acted for the most part. Though all of these basically qualify as dramatic shorts, the ones that contain a bit of comic flair were the ones I found most appealing. Anton Yelchin's bewildered confusion throughout his segment is very amusing, while Ethan Hawke's profane monologue is a filthy pleasure with a terrific punchline. I'm also very fond of the sweet little sketch involving Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach. "Pick up your feet," she insists. "You're shuffling. Be careful, or you'll fall and break your other hip." "Well, at least my pain would be the same on both sides," he grumbles. These two old pros nail their roles, making the short of one of the best of the film.

Many of the shorts simply consist of quiet conversations, which vary depending on the skill of the actors involved and the story being provided by the director. For instance, the Allen Hughes segment featuring Drea De Matteo and Bradley Cooper just rambles aimlessly toward a dull payoff, while the pleasant Shunji Iwai segment featuring Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci quietly works its way to a very charming conclusion. Both are basically just two low-key chats between a man and a woman, but seemingly little things go a long way toward the fate of each short. My single favorite little moment in the film comes during the conversation between Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn. They don't know each other. She suggests that strangers ought to have sex now and then. "Now you're just teasing me," Cooper says sheepishly. "I believe I am," she grins. It also has a genuinely wonderful twist ending, less cutesy and more moving than many of the endings these shorts receive.

For the most part, the shorts are very pleasant and accessible, though the segment starring John Hurt, Shia Labeouf, and Julie Christie is a very unusual bit of highbrow art that is simultaneously classically beautiful and incomprehensible. I still don't know precisely what to make of it; particularly Labeouf's odd Russian accent. Also somewhat peculiar is Fatih Akin's segment about the painter and his would-be model, which has some nice little moments but never quite clicks.

The transfer is excellent, offering deep blacks, rich detail and strong shading throughout. The aesthetic of some segments is a little more appealing than others (I think the Allan Hughes segment just looks flat-out ugly, while the two Yvan Attal segments make similar nighttime settings much more involving), but the quality of the disc is solid throughout. Audio is fine, with sound design mostly kept to a minimum and the sentimental music coming through with warmth and clarity. Dialogue is clean and clear most of the time, too. Extras include a handful of additional scenes, interviews with five of the directors and a trailer.

It's a bit too insubstantial to be worth a purchase, but New York, I Love You has enough of value to at least justify a rental. Give it a look.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 82

Perp Profile

Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Comedy
• Drama
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Interviews
• Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb








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