Movie Review: New York Lately

New York Lately (2009)

New York Lately is either a film that is too ambitious or not ambitious enough. Directed by up-and-coming indie filmmaker Gary King, this story of heartbroken, lovelorn New Yorkers perilously straddles the line between upbeat mainstream picture and deeply affecting indie drama. And its stories could be pulled back or expanded beyond the 97 minute runtime.

To its benefit, New York Lately has an intriguing quality that only a hunger young filmmaker like King can bring to the table. I never stopped enjoying the film as I watched it, never stopped caring about the characters. The film just doesn’t gel.

We watch as Jared (Jared Asato) and Ringo (John Weisenburger), two coworkers with divergent perspectives on the nature of their work, share a night out on the town talking about women but not finding any to go home with. Jared is the kind of guy whose looking for love. Ringo is the kind of guy who pays women for massages with happy endings. They don’t seem to agree on much, but the coworkers do share the common trait of lovelessness.

They also share a friend in Mark (Mark DiConzo), a voice-over actor whose heart was just broken by the woman he thinks is pedestal perfect. While these three guys try to figure out exactly what to do about their love lives, we meet other New Yorkers with problems. There’s Truly (Susan Cagle) an aspiring musician who can’t seem to find inspiration for a great song. Her coffeehouse coworker Veronica (Jenn Dees) wants to be an actress but doesn’t want to start her career on the casting couch.

The characters above all intersect at one point or another, whether it’s Truly and Jared starting an innocent flirtation after Jared saves Truly from a run-in with a bike messenger or Veronica and Mark both working on the same project.

But then there’s another story woven into the ones above: A husband (Jeremy Koerner) hires a female private detective (Vanessa Streiff) to follow his philandering wife only to fall for the gumshoe.

Whether the film would have been better served by more thoroughly telling the story of other characters (the cheating wife, her lover, and her assistant come to mind) or cutting the private detective story completely, I don’t know. The problem is–and I imagine there was a similar conversation in the editing room–the similarities in theme are not enough to put all the scenarios we are confronted with into one movie.

King, who also wrote the screenplay, certainly has a grasp of what he wants to do. He approaches the relationships without sentimentality, but undermines the picture’s more genuine moments with cutesy encounters. Jared and Truly’s first meeting. The private detective and the husband hiding under a bed together. These scenes feel good, but they don’t feel right, not with the staggering despondence that these characters often express.

The good news is I had masters like Woody Allen and Robert Altman pop into my head at different moments in the film. The bad news is I also thought of Paul Haggis, though his film Crash was a lot messier and a lot stupider than what we see here. If King can hone his voice (for he already has the skill), his future endeavors could be something to watch. Until then, New York Lately remains a good start and worth catching if it makes it to a festival near you.

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