New Year's Eve (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

New Year’s Eve (2011)

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Babel was one of the first films I thought of trekking through the torturous sludge of Garry Marshall's latest New Year's Eve.  On the surface the two have very little in common, the former gathering numerous Academy Award nominations and the barely registering as a memory in the minds of those who have consumed it.  Yet both films deal with a troublesome philosophy, the idea that we are all connected in the tiniest of ways, even if those who lack sight in the bigger picture are unable to appreciate the cosmic wonder of coincidence.

Sensitive to the nature of metaphor in film, Babel was its own slog for me, memorable only for an amazing score and a courageous performance from Rinko Kikuchi.  I will carry no memories of New Year's Eve aside from the faint whisper that Lea Michele (of Glee) didn't do half bad with Auld Lang Syne.  If the former is an artistic rendition of an empty idea that we're all, like, totally connected then the latter is still far worse for embracing commercial crassness and all the artistic integrity it entails.

This isn't an automatic slam against commercial entertainment, Kubrick loved the way commercials told a story in thirty seconds.  But there's no heart to New Year's Eve, and doesn't even manage to tell a proper story in the thousands of 30 second intervals afforded to it.  What existence it produces are bright monitors reminding the audience what to purchase and what provides such crystal clarity (Toshiba, as the film reminds us so urgently, is the key to proper televised viewing).

Interconnected stories serving an empty ideal aren't new to the independent world, nor are they new to the romantic comedy.  But we're a long way from the heartfelt, funny, and insightful stories of a film which serves as this one's successful other, Love ActuallyNew Year's Eve (much like Marshall's Valentine's Day in 2010) so closely follows the template of Richard Curtis' delightful post-9/11 Christmastime catharsis that the dilution becomes too obvious.

New Year's Eve contains not a single interesting character, failing to match Babel's one and the multitude of Love Actually.  No one will surprise you, there are no sudden declarations of love, no blindsided moments of truth, and the sad thought that if anyone's life is peaking this New Year they've got many sad years to go.  The only exception to this is Robert De Niro, who exhibits the common courtesy of dying with dignity during his precious minutes and then passing on into the beyond in a flurry of fireworks.

His supporting cast of nurses and doctors serves as a potent metaphor of the fading vestiges of talent.  He is surrounded by Cary Elwes, Halle Berry, and Alyssa Milano - all performers who seemed to be heading for greatness at one point, which I'm admittedly stretching for Milano, but fail to make the slightest impression compared to one of De Niro's coughs.  The rest of the cast struggles like the medical crew, with the other exception of Abigail Breslin, who should take her 2011 role in Rango as a sign good things will not fade from her horizon.

Whatever signs of a creative motif are abandoned early on in the film.  I liked, for the first two minutes, how it established the world as a surprisingly old fashioned joint.  The person responsible for dropping the ball is interviewed by radio, a joke is made about the Rockette's, most of the technology used by our lead's is put out of commission.  But there's no attempt to unite them all under this old time banner (counter to this film, Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion does this very well) and instead throws a bunch of non-connected cliches in the blender hoping they'll find happiness in time.

Whatever isn't thinly plotted out is astonishingly sexist.  I had no desire to learn the color of Breslin's, nor does she seem like the kind of daughter who would lift up her shirt in the middle of a subway platform.  Sofia Vergara shows up to do her thing and manages to score a double whammy of racial and sexual caricature when she continues to bounce up and down for an Indian colleague who chants "Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy."  Then there's Katherine Heigl, who seems content whittling away her performances playing another career obsessed woman who was wronged by a man, just to have him back in her arms at the end.

Troubling issues aside, it's very strange that in the universe of New Year's Eve has the titular holiday taking the place Christmas used to have.  Even the reindeer are apparently still on display for a stage show taking place well after Santa Claus would have scuttled down the chimney.  It seems poised to be Christmas' secular replacement, even showing a wedding where the priest is content to bless the happily married's union in the sanctity of the government, but God is nowhere to be found.

Surprising display of secular thinking aside, I just felt depressed.  I didn't get the idea any of these people were going to remember anyone's names a year from now, and even then the only couple who did remember each other weren't hip to the other's identity.

Just so I'm clear, Sarah Jessica Parker's character did say she spent last New Year's with her daughter, correct?  Zac Efron did say he did not recall his mysterious midnight kisser's identity as well, did he not?

Hrm.  Either the film is a chronic liar or just plain absentminded.  I'll be kind here and feign the same level of forgetfulness, hurrying the dulled memories of New Year's Eve from my mind.

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New Year's Eve (2011)

Directed by Garry Marshall.
Screenplay by Katherine Fugate.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I didn’t hate it but I thought it was an OK, rather entertaining flick. The problem is that these movies are starting to get very, very annoying and bland and maybe it’s time for a new type of ensemble. Good review Andrew.

    • Thank you for the comment Dan. I didn’t quite hate it, there’s so little substance there it’s hard for me to feel much of anything, but I agree Garry Marshall really needs to work on a new gig.

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