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Paramount Classics
Official Site
Director: Edward Burns
Producers: Edward Burns, Margot Bridger, Rick Yorn, Cathy Schulman
Written by: Edward Burns
Cast: Edward Burns, Heather Graham, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Stanley Tucci, Dennis Farina, David Krumholtz

Rating: out of 5

Take two parts relationship angst, one part romantic comedy, and one part gritty, low-budget conversation film, put them all together and you have Ed Burns’ newest film, SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK. Burns has made his career making chatty flicks about New Yorkers dissatisfied with their love lives and he doesn’t stray too far with his newest endeavor. But like THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN and SHE’S THE ONE before it, SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK shines.

The film begins with a barrage of introductions to the film’s six main characters. The introductions and subsequent character development are done via interviews, supposedly with a filmmaker researching a movie about relationships. The interviews provide an interesting twist on the reality of filmmaking—the “fake director’s” interviews could have been the same research Burns would have done to make SIDEWALKS. This technique, interspersed with the actual action of the film, creates an intriguing and entertaining window into other people’s lives and loves.

What really makes these six New Yorkers so believable though is the acting by the six principals. The key to any good ensemble picture is to make sure all the pieces fit and fit well. Luckily, all the pieces in SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK are near perfect. Dawson and Tucci especially are standouts as a divorced, lonely schoolteacher and a womanizing, asshole dentist. Even the usually awkward Graham holds her own—not since TWO GIRLS AND A GUY has she shown that she can, in fact, act.

Acting aside, what makes this film special is Burns’ direction. Not as impressive as his debut THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN perhaps, Burns nonetheless weaves a believable and interesting portrait of New York and New Yorkers. His use of handheld cameras and close-ups makes you feel in touch with the characters and pulls you into the story, almost as if you were watching their home videos. And since Americans have become so familiar with New York City in the past few months, the city itself seems to be a character in the story. There is an especially touching scene where Burns’ character is standing in front of a large window that happens to perfectly frame the World Trade Center towers. Because the film was shot long before anyone thought the Twin Towers would be destroyed, the emotional impact of the scene was much deeper, probably the most striking of the film.

Aside from stirring up American pride and sympathy for the victims of September 11, SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK is a great flick about everyday New Yorkers. Burns again shows that he has real talent as a director and a real talent for choosing a good cast. An interesting format, good acting, and a believable story make SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK one of the best romantic dramadies of the year.

—Renae Bolen

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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