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Paramount Studios presents
Sidewalks of New York (2001)

"There are no wrong choices. As long as you have the faith to make a choice then it has to be right no matter where it leads you."
- Benjamin (David Krumholtz)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: May 14, 2002

Stars: Edward Burns, Rosario Dawson, Stanley Tucci, Dennis Farina, Heather Graham, Brittany Murphy, David Krumholtz
Director: Edward Burns

MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language
Run Time: 01h:47m:40s
Release Date: May 21, 2002
UPC: 097363394549
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B A-B+B- B

DVD Review

What about love is most consistent? This is the central question asked in writer/director/actor Edward Burns Sidewalks of New York, a film that represents a sort of quantum leap forward for the often maligned Burns. The film, shot in seventeen days on the...well, sidewalks of New York...offers a surprisingly intimate look at the complications of marriage, dating, and infidelity in a city that can be as unforgiving and brutal as the relationships depicted in the film.

Burns offers an up close look at the lives of six New Yorkers and how they coexist without knowing it. Tommy (Burns) is a thirtysomething television producer who, at the start of the film, is thrown out of his apartment by his girlfriend, due to conflicting views about having children. He finds solace in the home of Carpo (Farina), his boss and resident expert on all things dealing with relationships. His being single quickly ends when he meets Maria (Dawson) in a video store; the two exchange numbers and begin to date. Maria, a schoolteacher, has just finalized her divorce from Benjamin (Krumholtz), who wishes the two were still together. Benjamin is a doorman and has dreams of being a rock star,and is strongly attracted to a waitress named Ashley (Murphy), which is at first one-sided. She, in turn, is having an affair with Griffin (Tucci), a loathsome dentist married to Annie (Graham), who suspects Griffin may be having an affair. She eventually meets Tommy, and the two begin an innocent flirtation.

While the correlation to the great works of Woody Allen is almost immediately noticeable in Sidewalks of New York, Burns surprisingly finds his own voice in this material. The relationships between the characters are at times magnificent in the way Burns gives each member of the cast their own distinct personality; even the least interesting character (Annie) still comes across as something more than just a face in the crowd. I also enjoyed the way in which Burns understands the motivations of his characters and is not afraid to go against the grain, showing six relationships that feel real, not manufactured. It has been quite a long time since I have seen relationships portrayed this naturally in a motion picture.

What is most promising about Burns' script is that he seems to have eschewed the problems that plagued his earlier work; here, he gives us characters that are less concerned with sex and more interested in love. While Griffin, Carpo, and at first Benjamin seem to be focused on sex, each will learn—for better or worse—that what they think they want from a relationship is not always what they will get. Another progression for Burns is that he has finally written strong-willed female characters. Maria, Annie, and Ashley are empowered women that help each other get through tough times. While the scenes of men discussing heartache and loss are still intact, they are nicely balanced with those of the opposite sex contemplating the same things.

What undoubtedly propels Sidewalks of New York into the upper echelon of romantic films is the terrific chemistry of this large ensemble cast. Tucci is the standout with his role as Griffin, a man who is always looking for something better, inevitably ruining every relationship he's involved in. Tucci brings a certain energy to his performance and makes the loathsome Griffin a sort of anti-hero. Dawson is also very good in her role as Maria and her scenes with both Burns and Krumholtz have a very easy feel to them. Murphy, who seems to be growing as an actress, gives her best performance yet as Ashley with an unabashed youthfulness that we believe she is this young girl who has no idea what she wants.

The remaining cast is fine in their work, but not on the level of those mentioned above. I liked Burns in this film more so than in the other pictures he wrote and directed. Wisely, he keeps his role from being the central focus, something that helps keep his character equal to everyone else in the film. Krumholtz continues to prove that he is a gifted actor with his work here, and several of his scenes feel more truthful. Graham, of whom I have never been a fan, is fine, but her performance feels flat at times; her confrontations with Tucci seem to lack real emotion.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Shot quickly and on a low budget, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation for Sidewalks of New York does justice to the source material. The image is not always sparkling with vibrant colors, but the transfer does offer good sharpness and detail, and given the fact that Burns has never been a visual director, the lack of a bright color scheme is somewhat expected. The transfer is nicely done, with good black levels and very little edge enhancement. The image offers little grain or flaws and the exterior shots of New York look brilliant in their rendering. A very nice transfer from Paramount.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Presented in a Dolby Surround track Sidewalks of New York offers a rather uneventful sound mix. The largely dialogue-focused track is a mixed bag; at times the center channel offers crisp sound, but the dialogue sometimes sounds distorted (take for example the exterior shots of Ashley and Benjamin fighting in front of her apartment building in chapter 17). This happens throughout the film, which makes it difficult to praise the mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Edward Burns
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:10:55s

Extras Review: Only two extra features are offered on the DVD for Sidewalks of New York, each interesting in its own right. First is Anatomy of a Scene, a twenty-two minute look at the making of the film. Originally shown on Sundance Channel, the documentary never feels promotional. Burns, the producers, as well as other crew members discuss the low budget and the sort of stripped down manner in which the film was made. It also focuses on the first meeting of Maria and Tommy in a local video store and how Burns constructed the scene in both the script and his direction.

Finally, Edward Burns offers a commentary track. This is a vast improvement over others that Burns has contributed to in that while he is still enamored with his low budgets, he expands and talks a lot more about the cast and the making of the film. It is obvious from the track that this is a very personal piece for Burns, shooting a film in New York, about New Yorkers.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

(?(?oking for a film with real emotions as well as an intimate look at love and relationships would do well checking out Sidewalks of New York. The disc may be lacking in extra features (though it does features Burns' best track yet), but it offers more than an abundance of real life situations lacking in other films in the genre. Recommended.

 


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