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Sidewalks of New York

Starring Edward Burns, Dennis Farina, Rosario Dawson, David Krumholtz, Brittany Murphy, Stanley Tucci, Heather Graham
Written and Directed by Edward Burns

IN SHORT: Average arthouse fare. [Rated R for Sexual Content and Language. 100 minutes]

Yes, once upon a time we went to film school. We know all about how jerky handheld camera shots and jarring edits are considered to be artistically superior to all that commercial crap coming out of Hollywood. You know what? That kind of pretentious excuse for making "art" is cute the first half dozen times you see them. Then it gets real tired, real fast.

If a director is a novice, overdoing the artsy-fartsy stuff yields a film that is distracting and unwatchable. If a director has burned most of that stuff out of his/her system, we may get yet another slice of life portrait -- for these indieflicks are almost always slice of life portraits -- with elements that put it a notch above the rest. If a director has gotten enough attention for his work (in this case not only as a director, but a writer and actor as well) then the production shouldn't have any problem raising the cash to rent a Steadicam for a day. Ed Burns didn't. While the jump cuts in Sidewalks of New York aren't too annoying, the handheld stuff has no place in his work anymore. Enough is enough.

So, let's talk about sex. Let's talk about love. Let's watch a whole lot of New Yorkers tussle with the hassle that is the pursuit of love in the Big Apple. Begin with interviews so that we may learn each character's first hand experiences and then weave a tapestry, the colors of which are their lives and romantic interactions. Burns casts a bunch of unknown and calls in Heather Graham and Stanley Tucci (and for you fans of that teevee relic, Miami Vice, Dennis Farina) for name brand firepower. It's the kind of ambitious attempt at storytelling that once in a while yields real explosions on screen. Sidewalks of New York pops a few firecrackers but fails to ignite the big bang.

If we can do this in one sentence, it should be enough to make those you who prefer the arthouse feel the hair on your toes start to curl: TV producer Tommy Riley (Burns) in a normal guy from Queens who has just been booted out of the apartment shared with his now ex-fiancee. Pushed by his TV star boss (Farina) to be the best stud he can be, Tommy goes looking for a new apartment on the arm of real estate broker Annie Matthews (Graham) who would be a good play if she weren't married to the dentist Griffin (Tucci), a philandering piece of filth nailing a college coed named Ashley (Brittany Murphy) who could otherwise be dating the aggressive (and possessive) Benjamin (David Krumholtz) who is, unknown to her, stalking his ex-wife Maria (Rosario Dawson), herself about to dive back into the dating world with a guy she caught renting Breakfast at Tiffany's (and we all know that's a safe date 'cuz we all know what kind of guy rents Breakfast at Tiffany's say her friends)

That guy is Tommy Riley. Full circle. Two sentences and the start of a new paragraph. We wished the experience of watching Sidewalks of New York was as exhausting as explaining the foundations. It's the kind of movie that actors love (and we've written about this before so feel free to skip around). They get to play real people in real situations, which is one of the hardest things to do. Nothing truly huge happens, emotionally, though there are spats and arguments and all sort of other "normal" day to day bits happening. Everything depends on whether or not you can connect to the characters that are being built on the screen. Everything depends on whether or not you can get pulled deeply enough into their worlds that you find some kind of emotional resonance.

If you do, Sidewalks of New York will do gangbusters for you.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Sidewalks of New York, he would have paid . . .


Pay per view level, as we could take this better on the small screen. Best parts of the movie come from the smaller roles delivered by Dennis Farina and Aida Turturro, as one of Maria's friends. Farina is studly scum. Turturro adds bawdy commentary which livens up some of the stories.

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