Anthology movies never really work. Very few get good reviews and even less make good box office. But despite this track record of little to no success, every few years, someone manages to convince another batch of directors and writers to contribute their own short film to something bigger, tackling some sort of common theme. In the 80s, powerhouses like Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese couldn’t make it work with New York Story. In the 90s, break out rock star film makers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez couldn’t make it work with Three Rooms.
Not only do the film makers get tricked into thinking that somehow, this time, it might just work. But I do as a viewer as well. Sure, the above geniuses took a big swing and a miss at their own versions of the anthology movie, but surely, the next batch will get it right. Won’t they? It’s that optimism that lead to me buying the DVD of New York, I Love You back when it came out. But it’s the practical part of my brain that has let it sit on my DVD shelf, collecting dust for the six or seven years since. I want it to be good so much. But I also know that the odds are against it. But today, I bit the bullet. I watched New York, I Love You.
With 11 short films made by 11 different directors, depicting their own versions of one of the most exciting cities in the world, you’d expect New York, I Love You to be pretty eclectic and varied. Well, guess again, because the samieness that fills this movie really did shock me. Of the 11 stories on offer, I’d say close to three quarters of them involve two characters in one location. They meet as strangers, but are almost immediately sharing their deepest thoughts, emotions and philosophies on life. There’s nothing wrong with a good talkie movie like that, but seeing six or seven of them in quick succession, some great, some terrible, most blandly in the middle, it becomes a little much.
But even more bland than the conversations are the depictions of New York City. The title suggests personal movies, telling personal stories about what the city means to these writers and directors. Instead, we get mainly generic short films that I’m sure were all written long before this project was a thing, then retrofitted to be set in New York. Whacking a random scene in Central Park, or having a character outwardly declare their love for the city doesn’t automatically make it New York centric. Almost every short in this collection could take place in any anonymous city and still have the same effect.
The upside of New York, I Love You is the acting showcase you get from a huge and amazing cast. Natalie Portman, Bradley Cooper, Andy Garcia, Christina Ricci, Ethan Hawke, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright, James Caan, Julie Christie, John Hurt, Eli Wallach, Chloris Leachman and dozens more all get meaty scenes to play. The only problem is, they’d all work much better on these actors’ demo reels than they do as a whole when put together as New York, I Love You.
New York, I Love You
Directed By – Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Randall Balsmeyer, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner
Written By – Hu Hong, Yao Meng, Israel Horovitz, Suketu Mehta, Shunji Iwai, Olivier Lécot, Jeff Nathanson, Xan Cassavetes, Stephen Winter, Anthony Minghella, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akin, Joshua Marston, Hall Powell, James C. Strouse