The 11 short films making up New York, I Love You feature intriguing turns by the ensembled likes of Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Ethan Hawke, James Caan, Drea de Matteo, John Hurt, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn and more. Produced, like predecessor Paris, Je T’Aime, by Emmanuel Benbihy and encapsulating the singular theme of love, NYILY also makes glorious, gorgeous use of its titular setting, crafting a visual valentine right up there with Woody Allen’s opening Manhattan montage. Unfortunately the disparate segments never fully come together as one, and with each desperately trying to stand out—to make a whoa-didn’t-see-that-coming statement—reality often gives way to the outright ridiculous.
In portions directed by Brett Ratner and written by the late Anthony Minghella, among others, the (predominantly white, overwhelmingly straight) characters meet cute, trading quips and secrets as if they’ve known each other their entire lives. From a slick, sleight-of-hand opener pitting Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia and Rachel Bilson against each other to the treacly bond formed between a suicidal Julie Christie and a hobbling, thickly accented Shia LaBeouf, there’s very little dialogue or action that rings true, while Natalie Portman’s ham-fisted cross-cultural fantasy and a grizzled painter’s obsession with a shrinking Chinatown muse are just plain creepy. Though Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach’s sweet and subtle ode to lifelong companionship does restore a certain measure of faith, by then it’s far too little, too late to believe the same fate awaits any of their segment’s predecessors.