It’s got the lights, the glamour and the action. It’s got a place, an idea, a couple of legendary actors and a legendary director. It came together as an experiment trailed by a storied history and it fell apart as a subsequent box office failure. Despite all this Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York never fully comes together as a cohesive picture. Rather, it’s a film with many parts that don’t gel, much like its fabricated lead characters.
World War II is over and America is celebrating. New York is one big party. People are dancing, ticker tape is falling from the skies, neon marquees are lit and returning soldiers are making out with complete strangers in the street.
Life isn’t totally back to normal just yet, but it’s getting there. Case in point: Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) is using the festivities to try and swoon any lady that will look him in the eye. Jimmy is a swindler. In the film’s opening scene he prowls a jazz club trying the same pickup lines over and over. Shot down time and again, he finally manages to keep Francine Evans’ (Liza Minelli) attention, even if it was against her will. The two are opposites in almost every respect except for their passion of music. Jimmy’s ahead of his time on the sax and Francine has an angelic voice. The music brings them together and the two begin to rise in the national music scene.
But that doesn’t stop their regular arguments and love-hate relationship. New York, New York follows their roller-coaster relationship through the good and the bad all to a stylized musical backdrop. Scorsese has gone on record as saying that he was experimenting with New York, New York. The plan was to take a human story and place it in the context of an old-time musical – a genre built on its obvious staging. Scorsese gets the look down, but the story end of things is a mixed bag.
Despite a running time a smidge under three hours, not a lot happens in the film. Boy meets girl, boy and girl get together, boy and girl fight, yada, yada, yada. It’s been done before, will be done again and there’s nothing wrong with it. I just prefer relationship stories to be a little more efficient. I may be over simplifying the film a little, but there’s definitely something missing from the movie – the certain Scorsese magic that normally comes to the table in his films.
While I respect the fact that Scorsese was trying something, there’s also no denying that the hoped for result failed to materialize. New York, New York, a production notorious for its ballooning budget and chaotic filming, lacks the punch of most of Scorsese’s other films. Although it has a polished look, the film as a whole doesn’t feel tight. The result is the awkward response you give to the person who finishes a race but is in the back of the pack. You say, “Good try,” when really it points out the simple fact that they still didn’t win.
New York, New York Trailer