Burns in love

Charlie Hobart

Sidewalks of New York

Directed by Edward Burns

(Edward Burns, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Brittany Murphy)

R

Like many directors before him, Edward Burns is content with casting significant women in his life for leading roles. John Huston did it with his daughter, Angelica, in Prizzi’s Honor, as did Francis Ford Coppola with his beloved Sophia in The Godfather, Part III. (Hopefully, he won’t make that mistake twice.) Woody Allen does it with
practically whomever he is dating at the time. Burns’ Valkryrie-like girlfriends have appeared in each of his films; Maxine Bahns in The Brothers McMullen and She’s the One, Lauren Holly in No Looking Back, and now the actor/director’s ex love interest Heather Graham in his quasi-documentary examination of modern relationships, Sidewalks of New York. Maybe Burns should try a new approach, since the resulting
performances are never more than average.

Not that this trend is necessarily
detrimental to his new film. In his latest attempt, Burns jettisons his usual pontifications on the influence of Catholic guilt in relationships and sex for a more universal approach of just relationships and sex. The film, accompanied with quick jump cuts and arbitrary “man-on-the-street interviews,” intertwines the stories of five New Yorkers. Graham plays a fashionably dressed Upper West Side real-estate agent whose snobbish, cheating husband (a smarmy Stanley Tucci) is stupid enough to come home reeking of his mistress’s perfume. Burns himself is a cynical television producer, and Brittany Murphy, appearing in everything these days (most recently as the “I’ll never tell!” mental patient in Don’t Say a Word) rounds out the cast as a Brooklyn waitress. Burns, though, lets his average guy, blue-collar persona, and to a greater extent his frenetic direction, over-saturate the film, stealing the characters’ individualities and quirks. (It is slightly disconcerting to witness a seasoned actor like Stanley Tucci spout Burns’ romantic rhetoric.)

Yet, Sidewalks of New York, when not philosophizing, can be quite insightful, if not in the way Allen’s Manhattan-which Sidewalks is highly influenced by-is the most poignant example of love relations ever
captured on film. Burns points out the ironies of
finding happiness for yourself when searching for love, as with Dennis Farina’s confident but crude lothario who’d rather be completely up front and honest than waste time romancing. Sometimes, the film
cleverly states, it’s ideals like Farina’s that may contain the best advice.

It is doubtful Burns’ Irish brogue will become as synonymous with love and New York as Woody Allen’s Jewish intricacies have, but Sidewalks is certainly a step forward for the young director. Let’s just hope Christy Turlington isn’t in his next film.

-Charlie Hobart

 

Sidewalks of New York opens today at the Lagoon Cinema.