As a city with so much personality and penchant for possibility, it's no surprise that the follow-up to Paris, Je t'aime heads to New York. New York, I Love You is a tale of the connections and personal missteps that occur every single day in the city that never sleeps. It plays out like a movie version of a song mash-up: some story lines are linear and independent of the rest while other characters wander in and out of each other's lives. Throw an all-star cast in there, and you could possibly have a recipe for perfection.
Unfortunately, the ingredients don't blend together as well as I had hoped, and instead we're left with an engaging but bland look at a handful of trials and tribulations in relationships. To see what I mean, just
Made up of a series of short films, New York, I Love You is an homage to the city as well as the residents who hold it near and dear to their hearts. The "anything can happen" theme is alive and well, as strangers become acquaintances and friends, putting so much emphasis on each and every interaction that we take part in on a regular basis.
You meet a few characters that represent New York well enough; Bradley Cooper is the guy who's constantly jumping into a cab the same time as someone else, Orlando Bloom is the struggling musician who turns to Central Park for inspiration, Hayden Christensen is the pick-pocket who's as sexy as he is dangerous. But sometimes it feels just a little too forced; like the film is primarily concerned with proving that New York is a melting pot. Rather than seeing a few love stories shine through stereotypes, I was more distracted by the fake accents.
As with Paris Je t'aime, some of the stories shine brighter than others. Natalie Portman directs a sweet piece about a relationship between a father and daughter; Olivia Thirlby and Anton Yelchin are refreshing as a younger pair who makes the prom a night to remember. The lighter films are breaths of fresh air amongst others that are trying too hard to be hip and stylized.
The ensemble cast certainly gives the movie a boost; even when it's not provoking the deepest of emotions, the film always had my attention. There are solid performances all-around, particularly from Chloris Leachman and Eli Wallach as an aging couple who are still bickering when they aren't helping each other cross the street. It is the most hopeful of the scenarios, and by far the sweetest and most touching.
The film provides plenty of the standard money shots of Manhattan: a typical day in Grand Central Station in fast forward, subway rides, hours of people watching in a coffee shop. The encounters feel authentic and realistic, but the failure lies in the inability to make us feel something on a deeper level. Sometimes you can relate to the characters, and sometimes you feel sorry for them, but it doesn't squeeze your heart nearly enough — and with a title like New York, I Love You, this a disappointment.