of New York
(2002) - Paramount
by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits
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
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
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
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
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
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.