New York, I Love You
This looks as uncomfortable as it was to sit through the film at times.

Theatrical Release Date: 10/16/2009
Directors: Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner, Randall Baismeyer
Cast: Jacinda Barrett, Justin Bartha, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Hayden Christensen, Julie Christie, Bradley Cooper, Chris Cooper, Andy Garcia, Ethan Hawke, John Hurt, Irrfan Khan, Shia LaBeouf, Blake Lively, Drea de Matteo, Emilie Ohana, Natalie Portman, Maggie Q, Christina Ricci, Qi Shu, Olivia Thirlby, Eli Wallach, Robin Wright Penn, Anton Yelchin

If there’s one thing you can count on in film, it’s that original ideas are few and far between. In 2007, “Paris je t’aime” got its stateside release and it did moderately well on the mostly art house circuit that the distribution allowed for at the time. Using vignettes to encompass an overall mood or message isn’t a new idea but the film did a nice job of presenting multiple viewpoints regarding Paris, its denizens and those who are just passing through.

And while it’s the same people coming up with the idea to do a sequel of sorts, the new crop of writers and directors of “New York, I Love You” run into a few stumbling blocks. All but a few of the short films here feel far less inspired and the manner in which the Big Apple is visually portrayed leaves a lot of room for improvement. “Paris” did a very nice job of presenting the key landmarks and beautiful scenery on display in the City of Lights. “New York” gives a few skyline shots, goes over a bridge and takes a few shots from Central Park but other that, it was visually unimpressive to say the least. And actually, although many of the characters are distinct New York stereotypes, you could just have easily called the film “Baltimore, I think you’re great” and fooled enough people.

And whereas “Paris” crossed its characters’ paths in a largely peripheral manner, “New York” somehow managed to make it feel even more contrived and like some big game of Six Degrees of Separation. I know that’s the point with films like this, as the audience is meant to understand how interconnected we all are, but I probably spent more time wanting to skip certain segments or hoping for less annoying dialogue and characters than I enjoyed the occasional quality scene.

Like its Parisian cousin, this film boasts an impressive set of directors and actors (as noted on this page). However, none of the directors managed to make any of their vignettes stand out from one another all that much; either intending to make it all feel uniform or failing to bring any distinct characteristics to their film making.

Generally, the acting seemed to go up or down with the script, which mostly is filled with cliché stereotypes of New York subcultures. Whether it’s Hasidic Jews, rude cab drivers or struggling artists, the film puts what audiences think of New York on-screen and rarely deviates from any pre-conception one might have from watching enough movies or TV.

Should you find yourself in the theater because you just can’t pass this one up (though I think you should), do make sure to struggle through the first few vignettes which are some of the worst. I’m not sure why the filmmakers left some of the stronger pieces for later in the presentation but it does help to mitigate the bad taste in one’s mouth after watching this.

I was looking forward to this film and had decent expectations but the art of the short film is not on display here and instead, audiences will find a clunky hodgepodge of characters and their barely interesting situations. “New York, I Love You” isn’t the phrase I’d use after seeing this film and I can only muster up 1 and 1/2 out of 5 for this collaborative misstep.

So if you’re planning to showcase your locale and people, don’t use this segment of a planned trilogy of love letters to big cities as a template and focus more on providing unique viewpoints than making sure that it’s all one big homogeneous mass that you’re trying to cram down audiences’ throats. Our cinematic palettes will thank you.