Edward Burns’ “Sidewalks of New York” is about love among urbanites, but it’s also about a more platonic kind of affection: the love people have for their city.
Of course, everyone loves New York these days, but writer/director/actor Ed Burns has been loving it for a long time, as have many other filmmakers who set most (if not all) of their movies in the Big Apple.
“Sidewalks of New York” lets a few characters wax rhapsodic in their dialogue, but mostly, we fall in love with New York just by seeing it. It’s a gritty place, and the faux-documentary style Burns uses here brings it lovingly to life. It’s not the soft focus, dreamy-looking Manhattan of a Meg Ryan romantic comedy; it’s the real deal, full of grimy concrete and 9 million strangers.
A few of those strangers are brought together in various ways in “Sidewalks.” First we meet Tommy Riley (Burns), a TV producer who has recently been kicked out by his girlfriend and is living with his pal Carpo (Dennis Farina), a sweaty lothario who issues questionable dating advice.
Tommy meets Maria (Rosario) in a video store and asks her out. She is available due to having divorced her husband Ben (David Krumholtz), a sweet, desperate fellow who can’t commit to monogamy and who is now pursuing a waitress named Ashley (Brittany Murphy), who is involved with Griffin Aretzo (Stanley Tucci), a married jerk. Griffin’s wife is the idealistic young Annie (Heather Graham), who begins to suspect her husband is having an affair and who, as a real estate agent, is showing apartments to Tommy.
The way the characters move in and out of each other’s lives is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the characters themselves. They are believable, funny people, with attributes and vices. Even Griffin, who is basically a swine, has the redeeming quality of being endlessly amusing to watch.
To effect the documentary style, Burns shows each of the characters being interviewed by an unseen filmmaker at various times throughout the movie. They offer their opinions directly, bringing issues to the forefront much more quickly than could be done with regular dialogue.
Still, there is a great deal of sharp, dynamic dialogue in the movie. Characters don’t do much beyond the ordinary things New Yorkers do — go to dinner, do laundry, and so on — but they make up for it with plenty of yakking. Fortunately, it’s entertaining yakking, yakked by characters we enjoy watching.
B (; )