IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH MARTIN SCORSESE REVIEW: “New York, New York” stars Liza Minnelli (Cabaret , Silent Movie ), Robert De Niro (Grudge Match, Silver Linings Playbook), Lionel Stander (Hart to Hart [TV series], Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), Barry Primus (On Golden Pond, Righteous Kill), Mary Kay Place (Being John Malkovich, Girl Interrupted), George Memmoli (The Sure Thing, Hello Larry [TV series]), Georgie Auld, and Clarence Clemons (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Blues Brothers 2000). It is directed by Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, Goodfellas) and written by Earl Mac Rauch (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, A Stranger is Watching) and Mardik Martin (Revenge is My Destiny, The Cut). Francine Evans (Minnelli), a young lounge singer, meets an out-of-sorts saxophonist named Jimmy Doyle (De Niro), sparking a strained romance that hinders their developing music careers.
It’s Marty’s old college try at the musical genre, with the Minnelli-De Niro led “New York, New York.” Yes folks, the film does in fact feature the famed song, often recognized as one performed by the legendary Frank Sinatra. However, in this story, the song is actually created by De Niro’s saxophone playing character, eventually to be sung by Minnelli in the movie’s close. You could say it’s a nice way to conclude things, albeit a predictable one. In pure Scorsese fashion, this feature rounds out well past the two hour mark, resting at a good two hours and forty-three minutes. While I typically don’t mind, the sheer magnitude and drawl of this picture took its toll on my brain functionality when I decided to watch it past nine o’clock at night. Boy, was I slipping. There’s certainly captivating moments on display with this film, whether it be the fantastic voice of Minnelli, beautiful backdrops, or the sporadic fights taken place between De Niro and Minnelli’s characters. They’re an odd bunch, one that’s quite difficult to figure out. Before the movie started, my DVD copy included an introduction by Scorsese, who discussed how fascinated he was in two characters who, though they loved each other, couldn’t work out because of their dreams/aspirations. Very much like “La La Land,” though De Niro’s Jimmy is a complete tool. On top of that, he’s psycho. You don’t know what he’s going to do, and I questioned even more at how Minnelli’s Francine stuck with him so long. Sure, they had their moments of love that took hardship to achieve (scenes that made me smile), but most times I didn’t want these characters to be together. They were better off separate because they just couldn’t get their act together. If this was the point to it all (how much of an unlikable person Jimmy is), then I would be fine. However, I know Scorsese wanted audiences to be on the edge of their seats, debating whether these characters should set aside their prides to be with each other, or stick to their own lanes. The answer was simple to me: stick to your own lane. Jimmy is an irredeemable character in this, only mellowing out by the film’s end. Even at that point I didn’t want the two together, because it didn’t feel earned. The filmmakers made Jimmy too unlikable, to the point where, while I liked the chaotic nature and unpredictability of De Niro, it became too much. While trying to stay awake through the entirety of the picture, my mind would keep bouncing back and forth the question of “why are they still together?” It becomes a mesh of sequences where you can’t help but hold out for the orchestrated music numbers. The other side to this movie is it’s interpretation of the old school musical genre. Scorsese wanted to pay homage to the musicals of the late forties, but I can tell he also wanted to satirize them with modern nuances. All of the bits with Minnelli singing were great, and the use of choreography and lighting were awesome. At one point, we get to see Francine’s career take off, with her eventually starring in a film that plays so much into the tropes of the musical. It’s fun, and even features a cameo by Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man on “The Wizard of Oz” (supposedly his final on-screen role before his death). However, it’s evident to say that outside the glitz and glamor of the gorgeous sets and music numbers, “New York, New York” is simply decent. The relationship between Jimmy and Francine is incredibly loose, frustrating, and at times boring because I just don’t have a strong connection with them. I was more so intrigued by the weight of this production than the character development. De Niro and Minnelli did their best, but Scorsese should’ve made them more compelling. At least give De Niro some sort of direction that wasn’t just riddled with explosions and bouts of chaos. The charm these two possess were enough to keep me around, but the characters themselves are nothing special. Unfortunately, this film released around the same time as “Star Wars,” leaving it to be lost in the background of all Scorsese’s work. It’s not his worst, but it’s also not his best. I enjoy a good musical every now and then. “New York, New York” has solid production value and great music to check the musical boxes. I just wish the characters made it more worth of a watch. FINAL SCORE: 69%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: