The bulk of films about New York tend to paint it as a gritty, sadistic metropolis, frothing at the mouth to eject anyone who shows the slightest sign of weakness. That being said, it was rather startling to watch a film that portrayed this presumably callous entity in a gentler light. While Gary King's New York Lately in no way suggests that the city is an inviting and friendly place for all, King still suffuses New York with a more empathetic persona than say, Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen.
New York Lately follows the same pattern as other films in the genre of intertwining stories (e.g. Babel, Amores Perros, and The Dead Girl), but there are moments when it falls short of being as compelling as it could be. Some of the key relationships are between Truly, a struggling musician, and her friend, Veronica Darling, a struggling actress, Jared and Ringo, two friends who work at the same company, Elliott and Samantha, who come in contact with one another when Elliott hires her to prove his wife is cheating on him, and Mark, a voiceover artist, and Andrea, the ex-girlfriend he still can't get out of his head. Each pairing separates at times to breed other entanglements with fellow characters lost in the vast expanse of New York City.
The film's start is somewhat slow to gain quick interest and immediate engagement in the lives of Ringo and Jared, coworkers who cannot seem to agree on leaving the bar they're at or not. The divergent personalities between these two characters, however, are accented by Ringo's desire to stay out until unconsciousness is achieved and Jared's desire to get at least three hours of sleep before forcing himself to trudge into the doors of work in the morning and seat himself at the primary desk of the loathsome HR department.
Next we meet Mark, a lower tier voiceover artist who makes his money by replacing expletives like "I fucking forgive you" to "I flippin' forgive you." Among other neuroses, Mark's obsession with his former girlfriend, Andrea, prevents him from seeing any opportunities for another relationship. In a conversation with Ringo and Jared, Mark laments that his love for Andrea was about more than just sex. The heartfelt tete-a-tete continues when he says he should have known that she was pulling away when she stopped offering to give him head.
The other two primary characters in the mix are Elliott and Samantha, whose story seems to have the most stand alone plot out of all the rest. Elliott, aware he is being blatantly cuckolded, hires Samantha to catch his wife in the act of infidelity. When Samantha informs him that he is a cuckold twice over (his wife is boning both her boss and her assistant), Elliott insists that he must go on the stakeout with Samantha to see for himself.
As each drama unravels, director Gary King saturates his characters with the forlornness typically reserved for New York itself. Veronica comes to terms with the idea that she might not have what it takes to be an actress, specifically the lax moral code that would allow her to perform sexual favors in exchange for minor roles. When Jared is put in charge of massive layoffs at the company he works for, he sees that his job is turning him into an unfeeling automaton. Ringo discovers that meaningless sex with hookers might not be worth the cost of getting his face rearranged by a pimp. Mark finds that forgetting about Andrea is the key to becoming focused on his work again. And finally, Elliott's writer's block is lifted once he realizes that he was an inspiration to Samantha in her decision to become a private detective.
The various plights of these New Yorkers are more than the average city dweller must endure, but still not nearly as mesmeric as they could have been rendered by King. Films with New York as the backdrop are wont to make the city an additional character, and for a film entitled New York Lately, it would have seemed that this would be the case as well, but the city did not have a strong presence in the film. In relation to its characters, New York is not capitalized on half as much as it should be.