I just went to see a screening of New York, I Love You, a collection of 10 short films masquerading as a full-length feature. Despite having one of the most amazing ensemble casts ever, it was no good. No good at all.
New York, I Love You comes to us from the producers of the French film Paris, je t’aime (ie “Paris, I Love You”) and has basically the same concept. All stories take place in the city of New York, and each one is about love, or the search for love (which is often confused for sex). Apart from that, they are entirely different and standalone pieces, even though it is put together as though it is a single film. Characters from one story might make a cameo in another every now and then — and there’s one character, a girl who walks around New York carrying a video camera, that I suppose links the pieces together — but there’s absolutely no connection between the stories.
You can’t discuss this movie without talking about the actors that make up the ensemble cast. Just off the top of my head, there was: Natalie Portman, Shia LaBeouf, Ethan Hawke, Bradley Cooper, Hayden Christensen, Anton Yelchin, Blake Lively, Orlando Bloom, Chris Cooper, Christina Ricci, Julie Christie, James Caan, Rachel Bilson, Andy Garcia, Robin Wright Penn, Jacinda Barrett, Maggie Q and Shu Qi. Brett Ratner directed one of the stories and Natalie Portman wrote and directed another.
I guess the whole point of New York, I Love You was to show off New York as a city, and to make some sort of general comment about the “moments” and “connections” people make, whether it is with a completely random stranger or with someone you’ve been with for 60 years.
Needless to say, I struggled with this movie. Putting aside that I did not know it was really a collection of short films as opposed to a segmented narrative (eg Love Actually, Crash, He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentines Day), many of the stories didn’t work for me.
That’s what happens when you combine what is essentially 10 films written and directed by different people. There is no consistency in the style or the tone or the feel of each one (for instance, some stories used internal dialogue; another had a narrator). More importantly, many of the situations and much of the dialogue felt contrived. It was very uncomfortable watching something you know is trying to manipulate your emotions in a hurry because it only has 10 minutes in which to do it. I often found myself shaking my head wondering who on the planet reacts and talks like that to random strangers!
The short films all certainly had a lot of style — with the pretty shots, arty imagery and poetic chit chat — but there was rarely enough substance to establish an emotional connection. And besides, even if you did connect with a particular character, you may never see them again anyway.
Individually, some of the stories were pretty good, witty and insightful. My favourite one was a short conversation between Ethan Hawke and Maggie Q. A couple of others, the one with Anton Yelchin and the one with the old couple, were decent. However, not all of them hit the mark. One or two were actually quite boring or irritating. And the worst part about this being a collection of short films is that about half of them (or more) had a twist ending. Usually one or two in a film is fine, but when it keeps happening over and over, it can start to get a bit tedious.
I would have very much preferred it had they simply presented the movie as 10 short films written and directed by different people, and broken them up accordingly without trying to force an unnecessary link between them. Knowing when one short story ended and another began would have helped me reset and watch the next one with a clean slate. Instead, the “combined” collection we ended up with felt uneven, disjointed and lacking in direction.
New York, I Love You is technically sound, shows New York in a nice light, and features an amazing cast — but so what? It wasn’t enjoyable and that’s all that mattered in the end.
1.5 out of 5 stars!