I had a very different review of New York Lately planned in my head as the closing credits rolled. This was the first narrative film I’d seen at the Charlotte Film Festival, and I wasn’t impressed. It was a full length feature, a notch above student films, but much of the cast looked like they were film student buddies of the director or struggling actors who happened to be available that week and were willing to work for half a Subway sandwich. A couple performers stood above the rest (Mark DiConzo, Susan Cagle, and that’s the list), a couple scenes had some genuinely interesting moments, and I think I chuckled twice (this is a romantic-comedy-drama, or, as we with Press passes at film festivals say, a “rom-com-dram”.)
New York Lately is about a bunch of disparate, loosely connected New Yorkers falling out of love, falling in love, and looking for love. There are familiar archetypes, like the two coffeehouse girls, one trying to become an actress and the other trying to become a singer; there’s the disaffected office worker who’s afraid his job — firing people, it seems — has sucked the soul out of him; there’s the guy whose girlfriend wants time apart, and he is torn between winning her back and moving on.
There are about ten characters in New York Lately, some friends, some unrelated, many paths cross, hearts are broken, love is found, etc.
Cliches aside, only one storyline felt painfully obtuse to me, the tale of the novelist who hires a female private eye to investigate his wife, and ends up falling for the private eye (a hard-edged gal who eventually opens up to being a fan of his books who got into the profession because one of the dude’s novels).
For the whole storyline, the acting was stiff and the writing was terrible, in my opinion. There was nothing genuine, realistic, or even interesting about the way the whole thing played out. At one point I thought it would turn out the wife wasn’t having an affair and then the writer would make the tough choice to not pursue the exciting relationship with the private eye and make his marriage work, but they went the cheap, easy route instead.
With the exception of the wannabe singer Truly and the gloomy office drone Jared, who come off as likable people who have the traditional romantic comedy meet cute, all these characters are sad, miserable people. Any time I was thinking about the people on screen as characters and not as wannabe actors and actresses, I couldn’t help but think: “These people need Jesus.” Seriously. I usually don’t impose my religious convictions on fictional people, but boy did these folks need to go to a good church instead of another bar.
My knee-jerk reaction was to label New York Lately a skip-it, but my harshness to the overall cheese, cliche, pedestrian, and unexceptional film lessened for a couple of reasons, to where now, the next day, I’m giving it the “it might be worth checking out” label of “TV” Why?
For one thing, while having dinner between screenings, Tom and I had a rather lively discussion about the film and the characters. We agreed about the (at times) amateurish aspect of the movie, but the mere fact we could talk about the people on screen for a solid forty minutes and debate certain aspects has to be worth something. Plus, immediately after the screening was a Q & A with the director and two of the stars, wherein they seemed like affable chaps, so I kinda would feel bad about just totally ripping their little, no-budget feature that I saw for free.
But perhaps the biggest reason I upgrade New York Lately is the mere fact that the very next movie I saw was Bronson. As I wrote about before, I despised Bronson for the precise reason there was no humanity or remotely likeable characters. New York Lately has heart and soul and likable characters who aren’t raging sociopaths, therefore, since a film so much worse appeared that same night, New York Lately moved up without doing a doggone thing.
–Daniel J. Roos kept writing “New York Lovely” or “New York Likely,” so odds are that means this film didn’t make too deep an impression.
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