The great actor Eli Wallach did what a lot of people wanted to last night at the premiere of “New York, I Love You.” After waiting 45 minutes for the film to start, he got up and left. He took his wife, the equally great Anne Jackson, their actor daughter Roberta, and an aide, and literally scooted up the aisle (with a cane, no less) and out the door.
“I’m leaving!” he declared. Well, when you’re 93, time is precious. And the wait for “New York, I Love You” to begin was extraordinary.
The film, comprising several directors’ short stories of New York life criss crossing, was shown more than a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival. It’s mostly the same as it was then. The irony is that Wallach’s segment, with Cloris Leachman, is the most moving and affecting of them all. Joshua Marston wrote and directed the vignette, which got the most applause in the Ziegfeld last night.
Another favorite was the very funny story directed by Brett Ratner and scripted by Jeff Nathanson, starring James Caan, Anton Yelchin, and Olivia Thirlby. What starts out as a sweet romantic piece has a good twist.
There are some other famous directors and lots of famous actors in this project, from Julie Christie and Natalie Portman to John Hurt, Irfan Khan, Ethan Hawke, Robin Wright Penn, Chris Cooper, Shia LaBeouf, Drea DeMatteo, Bradley Cooper. Some work, others don’t. It’s a mixed bag with many pleasures and a few bewilderments.
The biggest frustration about “New York, I Love You” is that it should be called “Manhattan, I Love You.” There is little reference to the four other boroughs. It’s also mosty white, with a little Asian and Indian flavor. In this New York, black people don’t exist. Neither does the middle class. There are roughly 25 name actors in the movie, and not one of them is African American ‘ in a movie about New York City. Hello? Nineteen listed producers, and not one of them noticed this. It says a lot about the movie business.
Anyway, there’s some nice work by Drea DeMatteo, and I loved an older Turkish actor named Ugur Yucel, who plays a painter in Soho. “New York, I Love You” is the kind of film that will play on cable forever, so you’ll have time to figure out who everyone is, eventually.
As for Eli Wallach, god bless him, he was probably snug as a bug in a rug by the time the credits played.