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SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Edward Burns, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Farina, Heather Graham, David Krumholtz, Brittany Murphy, Stanley Tucci
Director: Edward Burns
Audio: English Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: May 21, 2002

ďIs it love or sex that makes us so confused in our relationships?Ē

ďI donít know. Iím not screwed up.Ē

Film ***1/2

Ever since Edward Burns came into the independent film scene with his breakthrough 1995 indie hit, The Brothers McMullen, he has been faithfully labeled as the next Woody Allen. Much like the great filmmaker, Burnsí films have blended in tales of ordinary peopleís trials and tribulations in the Big Apple. His latest film, Sidewalks of New York, features Burnsí most ensemble cast to date, and it adds up to the writer/director/starís best feature to date, a wonderfully witty and sharp look into the extremely complicated lives of six New Yorkers.

The characters in the film recall their romantic encounters by way of a faux documentary interview setup, which is perfect for a film like this. Among these characters is Tommy (Burns), a TV show producer who has just been kicked out of his apartment by his frustrated girlfriend. Maria (Rosario Dawson) is a schoolteacher who has just gone through a divorce, and is trying to put her life back together. Her ex-husband is Ben (David Krumholtz), and he begins stalking her as he wonders if breaking up the marriage was a mistake. Ben soon finds immediate attraction to Ashley (Brittany Murphy), a 19-year-old waitress at who works at the coffee shop where Ben frequents. Although she is somewhat attracted to him, Ashley is currently involved with Griffin (Stanley Tucci), a middle-aged man who is marred to Annie (Heather Graham), a realtor who constantly suspects her husband of lying and cheating.

A lot of the commentary that surrounds Sidewalks of New York is that on the differences between love and sex. The characters on the spot all offer various opinions. Mostly as one would expect, the men prefer sex than that of love, which the women of the story are fond of first and foremost. When asked by the documentary crew about their first sexual experience, Ben says his first experience was with the girl who eventually became his wife. It was the only girl he was limited to having sex with, and that pretty much led to the breakup of the marriage. Lovely, isnít it?

Of the ensemble cast, my favorite performance is without a doubt Stanley Tucciís. The entire cast is flawless and on fire the entire time, but itís Tucci as the consistent scumbag of a husband that stands out with his endless wit and one lines. One howling moment comes when he and Ashley are out having dinner, and when she confesses about her exís manhood size, he darn near loses it right in public, displaying a sense of insecurity that is simply nothing short of hysterical. I also enjoyed the presence of Dennis Farina, one of my favorites, as Tommyís roommate who really has no affiliation with the other six charactersí affairs because he, indeed, isnít screwed up.

While watching Sidewalks of New York, I was instantly reminded of my all time favorite Woody Allen picture, Manhattan, for which this film is very much a companion piece to. Itís very clear that Allen has been Burnsí longtime inspiration for each of his films, and Sidewalks of New York is both a faithful tribute not to the legendary filmmaker, but the city in general, which Burns is more than proud to call his home.

Video ***

This is a mostly decent offering from Paramount. The anamorphic presentation does a superb job of capturing the settings of the inner New York area, and in the process displaying a certain richness in both image quality and in coloring. Picture comes through as mostly clear and crisp, though suffers slightly with a few instances of image softness in a couple of darkly lit areas. Not a bad transfer at all, though.

Audio **1/2

Strictly a dialogue-oriented film, this disc does what it can with only a 2.0 channel track. Paramount doesnít falter a bit, but other than the delivery of the dialogue, which is top quality, there really isnít too much to comment about. There are a few instances of music heard, but in the latter portion of the movie, I detected a bit of audio bleeding during one of the songs played.

Features **1/2

This disc includes a wonderful in-depth commentary by Edward Burns and an equally good documentary titled ďAnatomy of a SceneĒ which is presented by the Sundance Channel.

Summary:

Sidewalks of New York is a winner of a film, from a writer/director who knows his stuff, especially when it comes to blending in romantic problems and the Big Apple. One of the yearís most entertaining films.