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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Sidewalks of New York (review)

Ed Burns takes us back to the angst-ridden New York dating scene once more in his most engaging and most accomplished film yet. Shot partly documentary style, it follows a game of romantic musical chairs amongst Manhattanites who, notably, represent not only well-off professionals but the ex-bridge-and-tunnel working class, too: TV producers mix with schoolteachers, dentists mix with waitresses, and there’s even that quintessential New Yorker present: the doorman who moonlights as a musician. Burns, who wrote and directed, draws his characters with a razor-sharp precision and lets them speak the way actual people actually do, their straight talk about fidelity versus cheating, sex versus love, and other romantic conundrums is almost painfully real at times. Set amongst real New Yorkers who live in real, cramped New York apartments on real New York streets, who patronize real, funky New York delis and used-record shops, this is a love letter to a city that Burns clearly loves, if perhaps a city that suddenly doesn’t exist anymore. In her woman-in-the-street interview with the never-seen filmmaker, delightfully old-fashioned Annie (Heather Graham) worries about how our “cushy society,” with its lack of danger or genuine worries, leaves everyone free to obsess about sex and their relationships in the absence of anything important to ponder. Three months ago, that might have seemed like the kind of whining that deserved a smack — now it seems like quaint innocence.

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MPAA: rated R for sexual content and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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