The second of a handful of planned city-themed vignette films about love, “New York, I Love You” aims to capture a city, its diverse population and theoretically how its people love. In 10 segments with some small transitional scenes, 10 directors attempt to capture a piece of the Big Apple — but the operative word here is “attempt.” Some do, some don’t and all the stuff that tries to blend them together is confusing. It’s very good for the most part individually, but “New York, I Love You” comes up flat on the whole.
Unlike its predecessor, the slightly more well-received “Paris, Je t’aime,” “New York” attempts to blur the divisions between its vignettes. “Paris” was made mostly of scenes set up with title cards telling you the name of the segment and the director and it just moved through them. “New York” puts in these wasted transition scenes that borrow characters from different scenes and mix and match them together in attempt to show some sort of interconnectedness when you don’t feel that way watching the film.
The notable thing about a majority of the segments was a lack of intimacy. For being a film that’s supposed to capture love and love of a city, there were too many vignettes about casual encounters, flirtation, forced relations, things of that nature. They were focused on clever twist endings, not creating portraits. Those that did were the standouts.
Shekhar Kapur’s “Hotel Suite” is the high point in terms of artistry in the film. Although mysterious and a bit unsatisfying at the end, it provokes the most from the viewer with some gorgeous imagery and an insight into what the city means to people from one interesting perspective. Julie Christie plays who appears to be a former New York singer staying in an old hotel she used to visit realizing her dreams are long since past and Shia LaBeouf is the young attendant working there. This segment captures a bit of what New York City used to be, remembers that it has a history, which most of these segments don’t.
Yvan Attal’s segment is also worth mentioning as the film’s funniest scene. In it, Ethan Hawke comically tries to hit on a woman smoking outside who he lights up, explaining how he could sexually please her in ways she probably never imagined. It’s worth stopping to mention that smoke breaks are a big part of this film too, which is odd, in my opinion. Anyway, he clearly makes a heck of an effort to land this girl only it ends with a twist. Hilarious scene, but no sense of the city and of love other than a man’s vain attempts to bed a woman. It would also work better if it were not the only segment focusing on the casual side of romance.
You would also figure New York would play a big part in this film, but it feels more like backdrop. You just don’t get a sense of New York other than its diversity and penchant for promiscuity. Diversity is a crucial element that I’m glad was accented, but missing is the glitz, the glam the feel of NYC that anything’s possible. Buying the rights to use “New York, New York” might have helped even. Other than one little bit I liked in Brett Ratner’s segment where his protagonist, played by Anton Yelchin, says of all the square feet of Central Park and the thousands of method actresses, that his profound moment occurred at a convergence of the two, there’s no sense that a great number of these stories could only happen in New York.
There’s something to like about every little scene of “New York, I Love You,” but it just doesn’t add up to the effect your looking for, or merely celebrate the individual shorts as they are like “Paris, Je t’aime.” I still like the overall concept of these films, only the pieces didn’t fit together all that well for the New York stop on the journey, a shame considering the power of that city.
New York, I Love You
Directed by: Faith Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Randall Balsmeyer, Shekhar Kapur, Natalie Portman
Written by: (notables) Israel Horovitz, Anthony Minghella, Natalie Portman
Starring: (notables) Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, James Caan, Orlando Bloom, Hayden Christiansen, Maggie Q, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, Shia LaBeouf, Rachel Bilson