Sidewalks of New York



USA 2001
director/script : Edward Burns
producers include : Burns
cinematography : Frank Prinzi
editing : David Greenwald
music : Laura Ziffren
lead actors : Edward Burns, Rosario Dawson, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci
107 minutes

Less a movie, more a chance to spend 107 minutes in the company of Mr Edward Burns and his insufferable ego. Only once has Burns ever been deployed to positive effect – in Saving Private Ryan, when his charmless arrogance was nimbly integrated into a band-of-brothers ensemble. Sidewalks is also an ensemble, but this time Burns is responsible for script and direction and – guess what! – the whole thing is rigged to make his character seem the most likeable, intelligent, attractive of the bunch. It stinks.

We’re introduced to six New Yorkers by having them address the camera as if they’ve been stopped in the street by a documentary film crew. There’s Tommy (Burns), a handsome, successful TV producer; Annie (Graham), a real-estate agent; her dentist husband Griffin (Tucci); Griffin’s teenage lover Ashley (Brittany Murphy); Ben (David Krumholtz), a young musician with the hots for Ashley; and Maria (Dawson), Ben’s ex-wife who drifts into a relationship with Tommy. As the characters’ paths criss-cross, the ‘action’ is interspersed with more to-camera monologues in which they muse over their relationships and neuroses.

It’s as sub-sub-sub Woody Allen as it sounds, these well-heeled Manhattanites mouthing smug platitudes that seem even more inconsequential after Sept 11th – it isn’t only the shots of the World Trade Center that make Sidewalks such an instant period piece. The elaborate cod-documentary structure presumably makes some sense to Burns, but will probably baffle everyone else. His bog-standard direction may be dressed up with gimmicky over-editing and shaky camerawork, but his scriptwriting sucks: while the women are all admirably sensible (Graham and Dawson deliver career-best performances), the men are at best foolish, at worst unredeemable assholes. Except, of course, the sensitively macho Tommy – Burns has the brass balls to end his movie with his doe-eyed, sanctimonious alter ego delivering a glib moral that will have you reaching for the sick-bag.

16th October, 2001
(seen Oct-4-01, UGC Parrs Wood, Manchester)

by Neil Young
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