Clearly, some directors were more inspired than others by the charms of NYC. Tops is French actor-director Yvan Attal's clever Soho sojourn in which Ethan Hawke plays a wannabe suitor making the fast moves on a gorgeous woman (Maggie Q) as they stand outside a restaurant. Even in its short running time, both actors ignite the screen and create full-bodied, beguiling characters as the short story progresses with help from Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn. Another standout comes unexpectedly from action director Brett Ratner in his Central Park sequence about a blind date between a recently dumped teen (Anton Yelchin) and the beautiful but wheelchair-bound daughter (Olivia Thirlby) of a local pharmacist (James Caan). All actors are on their game, and Ratner imbues the sequence with a sense of youthful romance and surprise.
On a very different, but no less effective, level is Shekhar Kapur's ("Elizabeth") haunting and mysterious tale of a hotel encounter between a former opera singer (Julie Christie) and a young bellhop (Shia LaBeouf). LaBeouf does nicely, and Christie as usual lifts the material (written by the late Anthony Minghella) into the stratosphere.
Natalie Portman proves a double threat as she gets busy on both sides of the camera, first in a wry performance as a Hasidic Jew and bride-to-be who engages in an intense encounter with an Indian diamond seller (Irrfan Khan) in a Mira Nair contribution. Then she turns writer-director for a slight story about a little white girl (Taylor Geare) playing in Central Park with her black male "manny" (Carlos Acosta).
The final segment, by Joshua Marston, is notable as a wonderful showcase for two veteran stars—Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman—as an old married couple taking a slow poignant walk down a Brighton Beach boardwalk.
Among the rest of the enormous cast making lesser impressions are Hayden Christensen and Andy Garcia in the opening piece set in Chinatown; Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci in an odd misfire about a young musician with communication problems; and Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo as one-night standers looking for something more.
Ten mini-movies in less than two hours—there's something for everyone here. And if this New York love letter is successful, expect another sequel. "Cleveland, I Love You," anyone?
Written by: Various . Directed by: Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akin, Joshua Marston.
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, Rachel Bilson, Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, Bradley Cooper, Drea de Matteo, Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf, Taylor Geare, Carlos Acosta, Jacinda Barrett, Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman.