Cast: Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, Blake Lively, Shia LaBeouf, Ethan Hawke
Directors: Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Randall Balsmeyer,(director of the transitions), Shekhar Kapur,(segment "Hotel Suite"), Natalie Portman
New York, I Love You, an anthology of ten short films about life and relationships in the Big Apple, is possibly the best cure for insomnia. This dull and cumbersome feature that includes shorts by 11 directors is second in a planned franchise that started with Paris Je T'aime in 2006.
That film strung together 18 shorts by 21 directors, and while some worked better than others, each piece had its own distinctive voice and was set in a specific Parisian district. The shorts in New York, I Love You, meanwhile, play more like subplots in a larger ensemble piece. They have a 'sameness' to them, because few of the directors venture out of the tourist-friendly zip codes of Manhattan to explore the romantic possibilities that might be found in other boroughs as The Bronx, Harlem or Queens.
Among the more engaging shorts is one by French actor-director Yvan Attal in which Ethan Hawke plays a tactless womanizer making moves on a beautiful woman, played by Maggie Q, as they stand outside a restaurant. There's also Shekhar Kapur's sad but haunting segment (written by the late Anthony Minghella) about an encounter between a fading musical diva played by Julie Christie and a young hotel bellman played by Shia LaBeouf.
The ones that don't work include Mira Nair's contrived short in which Natalie Portman stars as a Hasidic Jew and bride-to-be who engages in an encounter with an Indian diamond seller, played by Irrfan Khan. Ditto for the segment directed by Portman herself about a little white girl playing in Central Park with her black, male 'manny'.
The larger problem with this omnibus is that most of the shorts come off as either affected or cynical, but always boring. Where's the spirit, the energy of this cultural melting pot which we've heard so much about?
As a result, it's the charming little piece by Brett Ratner that is most enjoyable. In this one, a blind date between a recently dumped teenager and a girl in a wheelchair ends with a delightful little twist that makes you laugh for the first and probably the only time during this film's 110-minute duration.
I'm going with two out of five for New York, I Love You; not all shorts are unwatchable, but as a collection, it's mostly dreary and pretentious. You'll find it hard to stay awake.