The Brag

Film Review: New York, I Love You

In Arts, Brag 361 (May 10), Film Reviews on May 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Eli Wallach & Cloris Leachman reminisce about better times.

New York, I Love You
Released May 13

The concept is the same as its predecessor, Paris je t’aime: assemble a gaggle of first-rate directors and actors, let them loose in a famous metropolis with orders to make short films, and then assemble the resulting footage into a feature. It worked for Paris because there were more hits and misses, which you’d expect the likes of the Coen Brothers, Alexander Payne and Alfonso Cuaron.

With its largely Manhattan-based followup (no Bronx? or Queens?), producer Emmanuel Benhiby gambles with a less prestigious group of directors, with mixed results. Brett Ratner’s inept comedy about a young man’s (Anton Yelchin) wheelchair-bound prom-date, for one, feels out of place, and Mira Nair’s tale of connection between faiths is interesting but mawkish.

The rest alternates between the meditative and the predictably snappy Big Apple-chatter one expects from this type of thing, with the stars doing their best with the variable material. Shia LeBeouf is a revelation as a crippled bellhop in Shekhar Kapur’s film from a script by the late Anthony Mingella. He finally gets a chance to act after his boyish-wisecracking shtick in Transformers and Indy IV, starring opposite no less than Julie Christie and John Hurt. Ethan Hawke also makes an impression as a vulgar but articulate writer trying to chat up Maggie Q, as do Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn in the same Yvan-Attal-directed short.

The best is left to the end, with Maria Full of Grace writer/director Joshua Marston making the most of the legendary Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman as an older couple bickering endearingly on a trip to Brighton Beach. Wallach, at 94, has been working extensively in his twilight years (you might remember him as Kate Winslet’s companion in The Holiday), and effortlessly conveys his character’s inner strength and silent love for his long-time companion.

Despite some needless intercutting a’la Crash or Sidewalks of New York, the I Love You films are literally a sum of their parts (Rio, Shanghai, Mumbai and Jerusalem editions to follow). This time, the parts don’t add up.

Joshua Blackman


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