Since the birth of movies, New York has long been cinema's dream city—its teeming populace of one-of-a-kind characters, its stone-and-glass skyscrapers rocketing towards the heavens, its subterranean cultures and its rooftop love affairs all making for the perfect backdrop to all manner of action, comedy, drama and poetry. The city has been immortalized on screen in hundreds of different ways in thousands of movies. But now comes a fresh, diverse and unabashedly romantic window into the city, this time seen entirely through the eyes of love—love in all its varieties, from first love, tough love and momentary love to love remembered, love denied, love yearned for and love that lasts forever—from a collaboration of young, impassioned filmmakers from around the world.
Directed by an eclectic group of some of today's most imaginative filmmakers that includes Jian Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Khapur, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akin, Joshua Marston and Randy Balsmeyer, NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU invites the audience into the intimate lives of New Yorkers as they grapple with, delight in and search for love.
In the Diamond District, an intercultural romantic fantasy transforms the purchase of a precious stone. Meanwhile, in Chinatown, a desperate artist pursues a reluctant muse. Within an Upper East Side hotel, a sophisticated guest and a mysterious bellboy journey outside of time. After an unexpected night in Central Park, a young man's prom date has a surprising revelation. Traveling towards the Village, two lovers speed by taxi, subway and foot to meet for the first time after what they thought was a one-night stand. In Tribeca, a pickpocket finds the tables turned when he follows an alluring girl. And in Brooklyn, a moment of Coney Island bliss envelops an octogenarian couple. These stories and more are all woven together to form a colorful, lyrical collage not only of the city—but of the deep yearning for love and human connections that sustain everyone within it.
Bringing to life the film's host of unforgettable New York characters is an all-star cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Andy Garcia, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan, Emilie Ohana, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, Blake Lively, Drea de Matteo, Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf, Ugur Yucel, Taylor Geare, Carlos Acosta, Jacinda Barrett, Shu Qi, Burt Young, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, Eva Ammuri, Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman. Following on the heels of the acclaimed PARIS JE T'AIME, the project is the second episode of the “Cities of Love” series of collective feature films conceived by Emmanuel Benbihy, who produced this film with Marina Grasic (CRASH).
Following in the footsteps of 'Paris je t'aime,' 'New York, I Love You' is a collection of romantic short stories set around the Big Apple. Each story is directed by someone different. 'Paris' featured directors like Joel and Ethan Coen ('A Serious Man'), Gus Van Sant ('Milk'), Wes Craven ('Red Eye'), and Gurinder Chadha ('Bend it Like Beckham'). According to IMDb.com, 'Paris' featured a whopping 22 directors all blending their original stories and visual styles into something completely unique and exciting.
Seeing as how 'New York, I Love You' is taking the same idea, but making an Americanized version of it, the question is whether this is as unique as 'Paris, je t'aime.' The short answer is no, but this American version does have its own flashes of brilliance every once and a while.
Featuring only half the number of directors as 'Paris' (11) 'New York' is hindered by the lack of storytellers navigating the narrative. Natalie Portman ('V for Vendetta'), Brett Ratner ('Rush Hour 3), and Allen Hughes ('The Book of Eli'), among others, take a stab at directing their own vignettes. Featuring famous names such as Bradley Cooper ('The Hangover'), Shia LeBeouf ('Transformers 2'), Ethan Hawke ('Before the Devil Knows You're Dead'), Orlando Bloom ('Pirates of the Caribbean'), and James Caan ('The Godfather'), 'New York, I Love You' is a journey into the hearts of random New Yorkers. How they deal with love, loss, and lifelong companionship.
The film begins with Hayden Christensen ('Jumper') as a pick pocket who falls head over heels for a girl he sees in a bar, played by Rachel Bilson. The writing and dialogue come off a little hammy and cheesy. Christensen is as cardboard as ever, but we've come to expect that from him. Elsewhere in the city a struggling musician (Orlando Bloom) is struggling to complete his work. He's fallen for his manager that hired him, but he's never met her in person, they've only had phone conversations. Here is where the witty banter begins to pick up and gives the viewer a better sense of what can be expected from the rest of the film.
One of my favorites was the segment directed by Brett Ratner - don't stone me until you watch it. Anton Yelchin ('Star Trek') wants to go to prom. He ends up taking a local store owner's (James Caan) daughter (Olivia Thirlby). What follows is a segment straight out of a John Hughes film. It's funny and deeply thoughtful. I dare not say anymore for fear of spoiling it.
Some of the stories work better than others. There's a very stylistic piece that seems to travel back in time (you'll see what I mean), which stars Shia Lebouf as a close-to-crippled bellboy who helps an older lady (Julia Christie, 'Finding Neverland') with her bags. Lebouf's performance is a departure from the stuttering, stammering youth, which is a plus, but overall, the piece doesn't seem to mesh with the film as a whole. Even in a movie with so many diverse stories, plots, and characters, it just doesn't seem to fit anywhere.
Without rehashing each and every story contained herein, suffice it to say that there are at least two or three stories that will appeal to each and every person's individual tastes. 'New York, I Love You,' is filled with eclectic tales and some clever filmmaking
While it won't wow the pants off of you, 'New York's 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation is delicately nuanced, and is definitely quite impressive. The film features a variety of visual styles – some scenes pump up the contrast, while others tend toward the darker side of the spectrum – but they are always consistent with the intended look. There is a thin layer of grain that persists throughout the film. It isn't heavy grain that distorts and softens the picture though; instead it adds a very cinematic feel. Many of the scenes take place at dusk or nighttime where blacks are rich and great delineation makes fine facial details visible in even the lowest of lights. Colors are lively and varied. A segment filmed in Central Park features vibrant greens from the surrounding vegetation. Fine detail is perfectly visible. No glaring artifacts were spotted, although there were a couple tiny cases of background aliasing, nothing major though. Overall, this presentation is very strong and should please discerning high definition viewers.
Being a dialogue-centric film you wouldn't expect this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation to pack much of a wallop, but it performs well enough with what it's been given. The dialogue, which is the most important part of the film, is presented clearly and audibly through the center channel. The voices are never muffled or drowned out. Even whispers can be heard easily. The surround channels come across a little flat, and the subwoofer is little underwhelming. So, while this track isn't completely immersive, on the whole, it's a satisfactory experience for this kind of film.
No matter your taste in film, you're bound to find a few stories here that will catch your interest. 'New York, I Love You' isn't all that unique, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in heart. Some of the segments are better than others, but in the end they mesh together into a kaleidoscopic look at life and love in the Big Apple. The strong video and moderately decent audio push this release into the (lightly) recommended category.