New York is a lovely place. In spite of being, let’s admit it, just a hair overrated, it is a city with the charm and multitudinousness of a Fritz Lang film. That being said, the creators of Paris, Je T’aime, Emmanuel Benbihy and Tristan Carne, seem determined to further their film series on cities to love with the concisely and repetitively titled New York, I Love You. Just like Paris, Je T’aime, it has a cast list that reads like a sighting at The Brown Derby (if, of course, this assortment of famous people were alive during the restaurant’s glory years) and follows the same pattern of intertwining stories to cover as much ground as possible.
The film starts out comically enough, with Gus (Bradley Cooper) getting in a debate with a cab driver and another passenger (Justin Bartha, the groom and Bradley Cooper's co-star in The Hangover) over which way they should take to get to Williamsburg. The cab driver insists Bleecker is the best, but clearly, it's only a ploy to sit in traffic longer so he can make more money (ah, the New York cab driver is such a slimy breed). When no one can agree, the cab driver exiles both of them from his car. This opening would seem to set the tone for a light-hearted glance at living in the city of dreams (or is that what they call L.A.?), but no, shockingly, it does not, and we are led down a twisty path of pathos ultimately stating, "Do not come to New York unless you want your spirit broken and your emotions extracted." Maybe that's the secret intention of the film: Staving people off for the benefit of population control in New York.
Where Paris, Je T'aime at least gives one a sense of being in the city, of what it might be like to live there, New York, I Love You does not bestow the city with any sort of colorful identity. It could be any grey metropolis really: Chicago, Berlin, Seattle, take your pick. Even the actors seem lost amid the banal plotlines of the script. Natalie Portman, always eager to show off a bald head, plays Rifka, a young Hassid who must be married to a man she does not really love. Mira Nair, who directed this segment and can usually be counted on for quality, turns the story into a trite forbidden romance, where Rifka knows she cannot be with Mansuhkhbai (Irrfan Khan), the Indian she negotiates prices with in the diamond trade.
Another disappointing segment is the one directed by Shunji Iwai, centering around a music composer (Orlando Bloom) and the assistant to the man he is comosing the music for (Christina Ricci). The only interesting elements of which are deferential references to John Lennon and Dostoyevsky.
Amid the melancholic anecdotes are a painter who dies before he can paint the woman he considers to be his muse, a woman (Julie Christie) who must resist the urge to hurl herself from a hotel building, and an old couple (Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach) celebrating their sixty-third anniversary. The combination makes for an altogether grim portrait of New York City living. Maybe the only truly blithe segment of the film is the one directed by Jiang Wen featuring Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson, and it's really only tolerable because there are pretty people to look at.
Still, there is no stopping the creative team behind the "Insert City Here, I Love You" series. Apparently, there is a Jerusalem, I Love You and a Rio, Eu Te Amo in the works. Maybe if they make something called Los Angeles, I Fucking Hate You it won't come across nearly as cheesy.