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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/2/02

Sidewalks of New York
2001 (2002) - Paramount

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Sidewalks of New York Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/C/C+

Specs and Features
107 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Edward Burns, Anatomy of a Scene featurette, film-themed menu screens, scene access (19 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0) subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"My name is Maria, and my age is none of your business"

Edward Burns takes a look at the lives of six different New Yorkers in Sidewalks of New York, a small budgeted, somewhat-romantic comedy that stages itself as a documentary. We meet the six leads as they introduce themselves to the camera, and then we slowly enter their interconnected world. The film's staged documentary doesn't try to be an in-depth look at these subjects, and the film itself isn't either. This is just about their relationships.

Tommy Riley (Edward Burns) has just been kicked out of his girlfriend's apartment, when he just can't take the hint that she doesn't want to start a life with him. She doesn't want a family. That night, Tommy goes to rent a video at the neighborhood video store and runs into Maria (Rosario Dawson), who harasses him for the movie he wants. They end up agreeing to share the video, and exchange numbers.

Meanwhile, Maria gets some harassing of her own from her ex-husband Ben (David Krumholtz). They had married too young, she was his first sexual partner, and they split when he cheated on her. He's a confused, slightly slow guy, and wants to get back together with Maria because he feels alone and depressed. She isn't making him feel any better, but the waitress at his favorite café does.

Her name is Ashley (Brittany Murphy), originally from Iowa. She finds him lovable sweet, but isn't sure if she wants to get into a relationship with him, because she's currently seeing a married man, Griffin (Stanley Tucci). He privately informs us that he has a very "European" attitude towards monogamy. However, his wife Annie (Heather Graham) always spouts out her conservative values and her feelings about marriage.

And guess what, Annie happens to be Tommy's real estate agent. And for the rest of the film, we go through the same cycle with these six, exploring their relationships with each other.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it is. Woody Allen completed a similar project a number of years ago called Husbands and Wives. And, of course, the serendipitous-interconnecting-of-lives as plot device had been done many times before. What sets this film apart (in the small way that it is set apart) is the performances. The six leads are well cast and good in their roles. The standouts would be Rosario Dawson, mostly because she's got the best material to work with, and Stanley Tucci, who is great as the smarmy egotistical-type (but, if you know Tucci, you know he could do that in his sleep).

Sidewalks of New York lends itself oddly to DVD. It's hard to really judge the transfer quality since it's shot using handheld cameras with basically natural light. Some scenes appear dark, although that would mainly be the film and not any process in the transfer. I can, however, say that edge enhancement seems to have been kept down to a minimum, and I noticed no overt artifacting. But this is hardly a disc to test your system with.

Audio is much the same. Shot with mainly with one microphone, every scene includes "unwanted" sound and audio "buzz." But dialogue is mainly intelligible, and I see nothing wrong with the track. If this was a larger film, the ambient noise could have been used in surround channels. But since it wasn't big budgeted, it's fine with the two-channel track that's provided.

Extras are a bit more interesting than the usual added-value features that studios slap on. First, there is a screen-specific audio commentary with director Edward Burns. He discusses the crew set-up on almost every scene, the challenges of shooting with such a low budget and exactly where the locations are. He does get a little too specific sometimes, as he always points out where an actor improvises (and they do a lot). But if you're a film student who really wants to learn how everything was done from a real filmmaking perspective, and not just the, "This shot was really hard to get!/This actor was great in the scene!" sort of comments, this would be a good track for you.

Also included is the Sundance Channel's Anatomy of a Scene installment focusing on this film. It pretty much supplements the audio commentary's general comments, as well as discusses the scene with Tommy and Maria in the video store. If you've seen the series, you know what you're in for. The Anatomy of a Scene episodes are all well produced, and can frequently be found on DVDs, such as the Sexy Beast or Memento discs.

Sidewalks of New York is worth a rent if you're looking for a cynical romantic comedy or if you like any of the actors (I watched this for Stanley Tucci). But don't expect anything terribly original here.

Graham Greenlee
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