Published Nov 26, 2009Seamlessly mixing wit, pathos, drama and whimsy, 2006's ensemble triumph, Paris, je t'aime, gathered an all-star squad for 18 occasionally connected stories of love in the City of Light. Its incongruent American counterpart, New York, I Love You, transposes the same template on the Big Apple. Despite a promising stable of talent, its disjointed construction and flat trajectory, along with the prevailing mediocrity of its tales, ultimately see it falter.
New York has a lot of cinematic baggage. Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese established high benchmarks for Gotham-set films, while Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach and Mumblecore hero Andrew Bujalski have lately used the city to great effect. Even Sex and the City distinctly mined Manhattan streets.
The city's wide-ranging filmic history sets lofty, though not unattainable, standards. After all, Paris has seen its fair share of film crews too. However, New York, I Love You overemphasizes the second of its titular concerns (i.e., love), relegating the city to afterthought aphorisms and pretty background shots. Sadly, most entries could have been set anywhere (albeit, Cleveland, I Love You doesn't have the same ring).
Still, a handful of segments stand above the crowd. Mira Nair's fantastic jewellery store short, starring Natalie Portman (a Paris, je t'aime vet) and the always fantastic Irrfan Khan, plays with New York's cultural diversity without applying too heavy a hand. Brett Ratner's lively prom tale injects a much-needed dose of quirkiness. And Portman's directorial entry receives a solid performance from Central Park.
Likewise, the strong cast delivers a number of moving turns, especially Khan, Maggie Q, Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke and Hayden Christensen (seriously). Regardless, plenty of charisma and scattered moments of beauty can't redeem this extended, shambolic postcard. And there are no mimes. (E1)